Posted tagged ‘experimental design’

A RHEALIFE: An Explorer’s Journal – PartII

January 7, 2011


This blog-post is from my dream/wish series. I acknowledge there is more imagination here than science and technology, but then dreams have always inspired the sciences haven’t they?

Cassini Spacecraft Orbiting Saturn - Credit NASA

The Cassini legacy: I cannot begin to tell you how many years I have dreamed of an opportunity like this. I also cannot begin to tell you how excited, actually ecstatic, I was when I finally knew I would get to come to Rhea. The incredible research, development and preparation that went into this program humbles me, because right now I am the only one here. All research and reporting depends upon me. I often wonder if I am as good as the great spacecraft Cassini was. Actually, I am here because of what Cassini helped all of us discover.

This part of my journal is pretty techie, but I give you the option of deciding how much detail you want by providing links to those details. Additionally many of those links will contain links to even more details; a data drill-down opportunity.

Super Shuttle Despite a dreadful period of poor financial support for space exploration programs in the early (2010-2015) years of this century, concept designs for space exploration vehicles progressed. Out of this came, what I have always referred to as the “super-shuttle”. This is a virtual space-truck that successfully transports astronauts and various equipment to the Moon, some asteroids, Mars and finally Saturn and its moons. In this regard, back in 2010, I made an early prediction of what the super-shuttle would be like. You may click here to review that article.

This super shuttle is a totally committed space vehicle, by this I mean it has never touched land on any planetary body. It is fully assembled and tested in a low earth orbit or L2-L4 space environment and plies the solar system as the main service support spacecraft for an international consortium of space-faring nations. You may visit here to get more details about this spacecraft.

To place me here on Rhea it took two shuttles to carry all the equipment and supplies needed for my extended stay. You will see why when you read about setting up the research station.  The consortium officially named the station, StationRhea.

Setting up StationRhea:Because no one has been on Rhea before, there are many unknowns as well as the known environmental challenges of this moon. With a gravity factor that is approximately 1/3 that of Earth’s Luna poses major operational and atmospheric problems. For all practical purposes Rhea has no atmosphere despite Cassini’s discovery of the presence of both oxygen and carbon dioxide. If you wish, you may go here to check, again, the comparison between Rhea and Luna.

As I mention above, it took two visits to Rhea to establish StationRhea. This is made clear when you select the preceding StationRhea link . I did it this way to keep this narrative (journal) manageable in size. Additionally the StationRhea document also has links to supportive data. You will need to exit each window to safely return here to this document.  Additionally, about the time I finish up Part III of this journal, a new Cassini II will have made a fly by and photographed StationRhea. I will post a copy of that image in Part III.

Experiencing the Saturn System: At this point I would like for you to get to know more about Saturn and her moons, and especially Rhea. The following link will take you to an interactive media display that will let you get the feel for where I am.  This display was created by NASA/JPL when Cassini was still continuing its visit to the Saturn system. When you open the link, please select the Launch Cassie button to start the interactive display.  When Cassie starts, I suggest that you first just observe the orbits of Saturn’s inner moons and see Rhea’s and how it relates to the others and her relative distance from Saturn. I urge you to continue watching the orbits until you get to see both Titan and Iapetus’s orbits. Lastly, if you watch long enough, you will see Cassini make one of its passes. Here is the link to get started.

Conclusion Part II: I know navigating this part of my journal has probably been tedious, I apologize, but I hope you did visit all or most of the links. Getting here has been an enormous effort by so many people and so much creative breakthroughs. Please take your time visiting all the links to begin to see the extent of those efforts.  Yes, this , as I said in Part I, is an imaginary journey, but it is intended to imply the possible future. We will make these types of explorations and with each one we will learn more about who we are and how we got here. In achieving that knowledge we will take giant steps in our evolution, and in evolving we move closer to who we are meant to be.

In A RHEALIFE Part III I will present many of the research results about Rhea. I will also discuss the mental and emotional effects of being the only astro-researcher on a remote planetary body, and how that may bear upon the accuracy and completeness of my observations and reports.


Image of Cassini and Saturn: Artist concept courtesy of NASA/JPL

New Header Image: An artistic manipulation of an astrophotograph of the Crab Nebula. Original and artwork by Waddell Robey (c) 2010


THE VOYAGE OF GLIESE 1 – Part I – Exploring GL581g

October 2, 2010

Voyager Spacecraft are Role Models for Gliese 1

This is a follow-on blog article that discusses the possibility of an exploratory visit to the newly discovered, Earth-like exoplanet GL581g. You may click here to view the earlier blog article on GL581 (the red dwarf) and its six (or more) exoplanets.

Based on our preliminary calculations, it will take approximately 30.2 years to travel to the GL581 area, and this is at about two-thirds the speed of light.

Human spaceflight for this first voyage is not desirable. The decision has been made to make the flight of Gliese 1 a fully robotic mission. Although this will be the most far-reaching spaceflight mission yet attempted, the great design and development progress in robotic spacecraft by many of our spacefaring nations inspires confidence.  This is especially true when we consider the Voyager spacecrafts (#1 and #2) which at this point have gone farther than any other robotic spacecraft to date.

There are a great many important issues to be considered before we even begin this program. Let’s look at some of the ones at the top of the list.

Space telescope research before spacecraft? The ideal first step would be to further verify GL581g by looking for it by using a new telescope system called the Terrestrial Planet Finder.

Yes, I have read about that, but I understand that the TPF program was cancelled or put on hold. That is correct and now the idea is to add the TPF features to the Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Planetary scientist Sara Seager discusses this in her book, Is There Life Out There?

So, we wait until the Webb Telescope is launched and in use, and will it have the occulter unit included in the final assembly? We think so, but at this writing we are not certain. We are contacting Dr. Seager to get an update in that regard. As for waiting on the JWST, that is not a long wait. It is scheduled for launch in 2014.

A Parallel Program to include JWST investigation during the design, build and test of Gliese 1. The Gliese 1 spacecraft will be designed to travel to relatively nearby exo-planetary systems. If for some reason, GL581g is found not to be an Earth-like planet with the promise of a life supporting environment, then the Gliese spacecraft is simply re-assigned (before its launch) to a different exo-planetary system. Building this system while also using the JWST to probe GL581g and other exoplanet candidates is efficient use and development of space-related, scientific technology.

Well that sounds like a great idea, but good grief we are talking about very, very large budgets. Who is going to spring for that? You are right, and to do this we are talking about an immense change in governmental commitments to space research and exploration. In this regard, as we have mentioned before, no one government or private research organization will be able to fund this. It must be a fully joint effort by all the spacefaring nations on Earth.

Gliese 1 exploratory spacecraft is expected to achieve a reconnaissance orbit around GL581g. The sensitive equipment on the spacecraft is expected to confirm that the exoplanet can and may actually support life. This is a more detailed and critical assessment than what has been accomplished byboth land-based and space-born telescopes like the JWST.

OK, then why are we not sending a lander onto GL581g to make contact? That is not an option with regard to the design of the Gliese1 spacecraft. A lander is not an included option. Additionally, until we get more detailed biochemical as well as geological assessments from the orbiting spacecraft it is too early to consider a lander probe. Most importantly, in honor of our long-held principles, “we come in peace, with intent to do no harm.”

Deep Space communications with Gliese 1 could be a challenge; however, our success with the Voyager craft is encouraging. In any case it is expected that the Deep Space Network will be expanded and upgraded to ensure that we can sustain regular data and command exchanges with the spacecraft. This is certainly going to produce dramatic breakthroughs in deep space communications.

Hmmmm, we have had some problems with communications with the Mars rovers. Doesn’t it follow that in the deep space where Gliese 1 will be that these problems will be even greater? Yes, that is a good question, and the planning for this spacecraft calls for greater AI(artificial intelligence) programs and devices that allow Gliese 1 to diagnose and correct many of its problems on its own. This will be more than the automatic shut down modes we have experienced with many other rovers and spacecraft.

Like the Voyagers, Gliese 1 is a one way space exploration program. As a result this spacecraft will carry with it, extensive assessment technology that will give us as detailed information (visual and data) of GL581g. The spacecraft also, powered by radioisotope technology, is expected to continue full operation for a decade following its successful encounter and orbiting of GL581g. Again, the incredible success we are having with the Voyager craft demonstrates that we can succeed in this respect.

Whoowee, that is exciting!  What if there is human life on GL581g and they take offense at our prying and destroy Gliese1? Well, that could certainly be a possibility, but there could be no real proof that the spacecraft was destroyed by humans rather than either a malfunction on cosmic accident. This is a major risk in this type of exploration just like so many throughout the history of humankind, but look at all we have learned and mastered by taking such risks.

The actual discovery of life, in any form, on GL581g will dramatically change the lives of all of us on this planet. We expect this and in our design of the spacecraft in addition to our many assessment systems and protocols we have set up a network report protocol that will send back to Earth, for public broadcast, images and data that let all of us share in this remarkable exploration. Maybe we will even receive an image of ET waving to us.

Thinking about that feedback is both exciting and sort of spooky. I am not sure how I will really react to that revelation. I think I will be jumping with joy, but maybe not. We understand that. Reactions to proof of life elsewhere in the galaxy and the universe will have a shock effect on all of us. The joy is knowing we are no longer alone. The worry will be manifold as we are deluged with sci-fi histrionics and a new application of the superstitious warnings of those who have trouble accepting these facts. None of this will eradicate the fact that there is life out there.  Me, I hear great music and have beautiful visions of a whole new future for all of us.

Well, we have just considered a few of the important issues involved in this project.  We need to consider more. We will do this in one more blog article to follow this one. We hope you will join us and follow along.  Please we urge your comments, questions, and scientific corrections and additions. Until next week – Look up and ask: Quo Vadis?


Image of Voyager Spacecraft – courtesy of NASA.

THE GLIESE EXPEDITION – Only Very Young Astronauts Need Apply

September 30, 2010

GL581 (Red Dwarf) - Exoplanets too distant to be seen.

Yes, extra-solar GL581g has been discovered as a definite Earth-like exoplanet. It could very well have an atmosphere and water; important life support ingredients.

Unofficial comments about a future mission to GL581g are already filling social networks. The key questionis will that expedition ever happen? A large chorus quickly shout YES, but a more sullen, conservative audience expresses resistant doubts.  Well, lets join the “can do” crowd and see just what it would take to visit the Red Dwarf and its string of planets; especially GL581g.

First there is the matter of distance. GL581 and its solar system is 20 light years away. That converts to 117,572,507,463,672.14 Miles. This is not just an around the corner distance. Current spacecraft and propulsion systems would not carry humans that distance unless we used sci-fi science and put the explorers in deep freeze for years and years.

Oh, well then lets just forget it. NO! Read on to see what can be done.

What about time-lapse? Considering the distance cited above we need to be able to make the journey at near the speed of light . Assuming we could achieve a propulsion system that could provide a thrust equal to 2/3 the speed of light (199841.653 km/s) which converts to 447,032,987 miles per hour, we could achieve this speed. It would take us 30.2 years to reach GL581.

Oh, well, see lets just forget it! NO! There is still more to consider. Please read on.

Warp Drive or what propulsion system? You can forget sci-fi science warp drive stuff at the moment and instead think about a propulsion system that could supply constant acceleration such as an expansion of the VASIMR propulsion system concept. To help you understand this take some time to understand acceleration, velocity and speed.  Any good physics text on motion should give you all you would need.

O.K, so we could get there in less than 30 + years? Not in the beginning. It is best to plan around that time factor.

Nuclear Power (Fusion) is a must. To reach the desired state of constant acceleration and to sustain it we need an energy source that can support the expedition for longer than twice the one-way flight time (We do plan to come back to report our discoveries). Right now the type of energy source that could be installed and operated in a spacecraft does not exist. There are many critical breakthroughs that must be achieved for this to become a reality. Roskosmos of Russia is working on nuclear power propulsion and NASA did once, and must start again – NOW!

Humph, most folks are scared silly of nuclear power so is that even something we should think about? YES!  We just need to grow up to where we can manage nuclear energy responsibly and safely.  The U.S Navy does it all the time, so….?

The spacecraft design. Unlike the concept of Earthship I, a spaceship under constant acceleration will create its own artificial gravity that will offset the effects of long-term exposure to weightlessness and the associated physiological effects on astronauts. Obviously in addition to the aforementioned propulsion system, the spacecraft must be designed to accommodate a crew over an extended journey. Protection from cosmic effects (radiation, meteor strikes, supernovae events, and black holes are serious hazards). Entirely new design criteria must evolve and should be aided by the spacecraft designs we have made and will develop for exploration of our own solar system.

Well seems to me we should consider the first voyage based on a totally robotic crew. This could enable us to do out first exploration more safely and at less cost. YES, that is correct and is in the plan.

Good, now who is going to foot the bill for all of this? The U.S. Congress? NO, not entirely. The only way this is going to come about is through an international effort that is represented by a formal international space organization that shares in all aspects of the expedition.  To see what we mean review again the details in Part III of the Earthship I blog article.

Mission 1 of the Gliese Expedition will be a robotic mission that will allow us to assess many factors involved with a very long-term, deep space exploration. This will be a less expensive first start and will also give us time to fully organize the development of the International Space Organization. Unless we can assure this new spacefaring unity and comradeship, our success in deep space exploration will be extremely limited.

O.K., so what is next? Well we have a lot more to present and to discuss with you so we are going to do at least one follow on blog article that will present our ideas about that first, robotic , voyage to GL581. We urge you to plan a return visit (in a view days) for our presentation of The Voyage of GLIESE 1.


Astrophotograph of GL581 – Red Dwarf. Courtesy of Waddell Robey and (See copyright notice on the image, please).




August 25, 2010

Sailing Bark Europa

I have always regretted my decision to not stay on extended active duty to take part in a Department of Defense research project to Antarctica. It was an immense opportunity that is still sadly missed. Whereas most of us never have the opportunity to participate in a major exploration project, I was lucky and instead turned it away. Just forget about it, right? No, there can soon be ways to become an active explorer; right in your own home or in school.

Additionally, it will be a good many generations before the majority of humankind travels out into space. This, too, can be an exploration that we can initially experience here on our home planet; in fact in our own homes or schools.  This can be accomplished by expanding the already impressive virtual reality (VR) systems and programs such as Nintendo Wii, Second Life, ActiveWorlds, and others.

Right now each of the above entertainment VR systems offer direct interactive involvement in a virtual world that includes some zones devoted to the exploring of our natural environment and space.  Each, clearly shows that we can use this technology to allow us to personally experience key moments in history, or great exploratory expeditions of the past, or to take part in new explorations into the sciences and outer space.

Using the “Second Life” virtual world concept, imagine creating your own astro-avatar that joins with other astro-avatars as they board their spacecraft for an initial visit to Mars. You would not be alone.  In the social media concept of  “Second Life” you would share your experience with other astro-avatars like yourself. This is an exploratory learning experience that an entire family could participate in with the right computer systems setup.

In another example, we insert a VR history module into our system. We create an avatar for ourselves that blends in with the historical era. Lets say we want to be part of Admiral Richard Byrd’s expeditions to the North Pole and South Pole.  The module integrates us into a dramatic historical series that allows us to experience and not simply read about these great expeditions. We, as avatars, are members of the exploration party, not just bystanders.

In the vast realm and challenges of education, the use of VR systems holds great promise for enabling students to enrich their regular learning by directly experiencing specific historical and/or scientific material.  It is like adding a whole new dimension to a youngster’s grasp of a topic, or procedure, or historical event.  To read a more detailed discussion of VR education systems please consider visiting The Virtual Educator.

There is a much design and system development challenge to bring this kind of VR experience into being.  We are partly there, but ideally we need to bring the public to the point where there is enough demand to warrant the intense and expensive development process needed to produce these products. As we know part of that demand already exists when we consider the sales of Wii systems and memberships in virtual worlds such as either Active Worlds or Second Life. The fact that movie producer, James Cameron, is now taking his Avatar experience to work for NASA indicates that the odds of realizing the VR concepts mentioned above are reasonable and attainable.

The design and development of these systems is not as demanding as those that establish what is known as immersive virtual reality. These are systems where the participants don special helmets and other devices to literally enter a VR world.  They are not in a pseudo-participant mode looking through their computer screens. They are entirely present and on scene.  There are some gaming centers that use immersive VR, and it would be stunning to develop a space exploration system using this model, but it would not be suitable for home or school use. Regardless, this concept could also blossom into a full-fledged public adventure in interactive exploring.

The most common element in all of this is creativity, and that in itself is a vital stimulus that can move humankind both onward and upward. The engineering, programming, and graphic innovations these VR systems demand enriches the entire technology realm. Solutions that are originally designed for a VR system can and will be extended right into real world projects.  Again, James Cameron and his movie, Avatar, bear witness to this eventuality.

The opportunity to carry humankind into the space exploration era through VR experiences is more than exciting, it is an obligation. It is an obligation because we of this century and this generation must begin the process of preparing future generations to go well beyond where humankind has never gone before. With VR it is not a chore, it is a delightful endeavor that lights up all our lives.

See you on Pandora.


Image of the sailing Bark Europa from IAATO Antarctic Expeditions.


August 10, 2010

Astronaut/Robonaut EVA

The Augustine committee, for example, found that without both human and robotic missions, “any space program would be hollow.” The following statement was taken from a report from the Congressional Research Service entitled: “The Future of NASA: Space Policy Issues Facing Congress” (January 2010).  This report acknowledges the strong support for robotic explorations, but also clearly supports the logic and value of joint mission profiles that include robotics, human spaceflight, and human spaceflight with astrobots. This latter joint activity is about to take place on the International Space Station with the presence of NASA’s Robonaut 2.

Some advocates for astrobots envision the majority of space exploration missions being accomplished with robots or robot rovers such as those involved with our Mars explorations. As stated above, the strongest logic seems to support individualized mission planning that would include some exclusively robotic missions while others would either be totally human spaceflight missions or a joint mission involving humans and robots.

The significant point is specific mission planning that uses the right human and/or robotic resources. Support for this flexible approach is a policy decision that includes both human spaceflight and robotic spaceflight capabilities in the mission resources pool.  This approach appears to be alive and well considering the coming joint mission to the International Space Station involving astronauts and robonauts.

With the foregoing in mind let’s look at some mission planning considerations for the announced mission to an asteroid.  In this regard, President Obama’s announced schedule of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025 sets a mission planning and development time interval that will be a factor in the following mission considerations. These are:

  1. How much of the mission is solid science and how much of it is a PR “gee whiz” project?  I am not saying the “gee whiz” factor is totally wrong, but it should be only a side benefit to our investigation into threat avoidance and resource potentials of near Earth objects.
  2. Accepting the mission key objectives of threat avoidance analyses and resource assessments, does the mission need human spaceflight? In answering this issue we should include consideration of a robotic mission as a fully acceptable and successful alternative.
  3. If we decide to consider a robotic mission, then there are several key issues that must be considered before a final mission profile is established. These are: (a) mission related design requirements, (b) design, development and test time-frames, (c) successful accomplishment of (a) and (b) before the end of the White House 15 year launch goal (2025), and (d) consideration of a joint astronaut and robonaut team approach including impact on desired mission launch date.
  4. What are the benefits of the asteroid mission being planned as a joint international space exploration project? The White House space plan specifically calls for increased and improved joint missions involving NASA’s foreign space partners.  In considering this, we would need to relax the current 2025 launch target to allow for the necessary multi-national mission planning efforts. Like the ISS program, the idea of an international mission to an asteroid further cements our transition from nation-based space exploration to a global program.
  5. Should this mission also be developed as a joint civil and private venture in which select commercial entities would both contribute to and benefit from the asteroid mission? If this were to be included, would it be useful to have the commercial partners responsible for the resource evaluations vis-a-vis future mining operations? Ideally, if included, the commercial partners would also share in the mission costs.

Lastly, cost is an important issue and there is already a suggested budget for this mission. Would a change to a robotic mission alter that cost? Would the alteration increase, decrease or hold to the planned budget? Additionally, would changing the mission scope to become an international program result in some shared development and program costs that would benefit all the participating nations? These are all serious and critically important considerations and hopefully will be included in the actual mission planning effort.

In Part III of this blog presentation we will offer our view of a specific robotic mission to an asteroid.  Please join us.


The image above is an artist’s concept of a joint astronaut and robonaut mission involving the assembly of a space telescope.  Courtesy NASA.

URGENT EXPLORATIONS: Doing Our Homework – Lesson 4: Enterprise

August 5, 2010

What is enterprise? It is a starship. It is a shuttle spacecraft. “It is a purposeful or industrious undertaking (especially one that requires effort or boldness).” For the discussion here, it is all three. The last definition clearly relates to what I consider the grit of the exploration ethic; effort and boldness.  In the image on the left, the shuttle Enterprise is posing for a “photo-op” with NASA officials and most of the crew of the Star Trek TV series; a clear example of “true grit.”

As most of us know, the shuttle Enterprise was the first shuttle, but it would never be launched to go into Earth orbit. It was a design configuration and test vehicle that helped confirm that our glorious space shuttles would, in fact, make historic achievements for the space sciences and low Earth orbit technology. None of this happened without a great deal of effort and boldness.

Before the shuttle there was Apollo, and with a great deal of effort and boldness, NASA, the aerospace industry, and the people of this nation put men on our Moon. The image on the right of Astronaut Alan Bean of the Apollo 12 mission certifies the tremendous value of those bold efforts. Without enterprise, successful space exploration and the evolution of a spacefaring civilization has only a small chance of success.  So, let’s do some homework on the process.


Enterprise, as defined above has been ever-present in Earth’s civilization, but with considerable variability.  We are here, at this time, on Earth and in space because of enterprising and innovative humans who have moved us forward.  We have done this in spite of long periods of war and economic collapse. We have also accomplished progress despite superstitious and punitive political and theological movements. Even though they regarded some enterprising people and movements as defiant or sacrilegious, those people and groups persisted. I attribute that persistence to the evolutionary imperative to explore.

Right now, humankind faces serious economic and leadership challenges albeit there is an abundance of enterprising individuals and organizations. They are both private and public, and they seek to continue to move us forward and out into space. Reactionary attitudes and policies that are labeled as conservative seek to stall that progress except for some of the elite.  Unfortunately, on a world-wide scale, the elite rather just ride the wealth wave and never ever support enterprise unless it directly enriches their coffers.  Despite that, history shows that many of the elite in the past were the instigators of enterprising explorations that helped colonize and enrich this entire planet. We need to revive that attitude and support.  In the past, those esteemed public and private figures saw both profit and benefit in reaching out into the unknown.  That exists today, but is essentially disorganized.  I say disorganized, because like in the past, these courageous and enterprising efforts need solid guidance and leadership to insure success for all and not just the few.

The eagerness of our industry to press forward into space is encouraging and most welcome.  This should be globally supported by national leaders, and that is beginning to happen.  Regardless, that leadership must have a plan that is far more aggressive and structured than simply a program of encouragement for the eager private sector. This, as far as our nation is concerned, is a bit tattered. Quite frankly, it suffers from far too many cooks in the kitchen. The head chef should be NASA with solid advice and support from the scientific community.  For this to happen, the head chef needs to be granted greater authority and responsibility by the supportive elite; our national leadership.  This is only partially in place at this moment, and that is what gives the impression of a “tattered” program.  Remember, enterprise insists upon both effort and boldness.  There is plenty of effort, but variable boldness in both finance and leadership.  We must bolster boldness now.

There is lots of talk and some action on enabling more international joint space ventures.  This is the ideal concept of enterprise and the exploration ethic.  For this to become a reality of action and progress the key global leaders need to agree and move forward with an international space exploration program. Ideas, designs, research, staff and costs are shared.  We set warfare aside; permanently substituting spacefare in its place.  In doing this we enhance global enterprise and in accomplishing that,  we enhance global opportunity and peace.  The challenge here is to develop a global ego that replaces national egos; call it Earthling pride.

There is a model for all the above, and it passes over the heads of all of us regularly. The International Space Station is a living, breathing example of international enterprise and should be joyfully regarded as the keystone to a globally bold effort to reach out and explore. We can, we shall “boldly go, where no human has gone before.” Now that is Enterprise of all three kinds!


Image of shuttle Enterprise and supporters: Courtesy of NASA

Image of Astronaut Alan Bean and the Apollo 12 mission: Courtesy of NASA


July 23, 2010

The exclamatory title of this blog post is more likely something we have heard on one of those “cop tv shows” during the questioning of  a suspect.  The young Einstein in his patent office garb may have said the same thing, plaintively, as he released his Special Theory of Relativity and later his great General Theory of Relativity.  Not cocky, not defensive, but a serious request that his scientific peers test and confirm his theory.

In an earlier post, I stated that as we explore, we discover, and in discovering we are then committed to explain, and in explaining we advance the world of science.  It is the explaining part that we will consider here. The explanation we develop to illustrate and define our discovery may take the form of a theory (hypothesis). In this regard it could be as simple as our saying, “I think I just found a meteorite fragment” or as deceptively simple as Einstein’s energy equation: E=MC^2. Both of these statements start out as theory until they are proven to be true. The series of experimental tests needed to verify Einstein’s energy equation were extensive and difficult, but are unquestionable in their results. Energy has mass and mass has energy; all in relationship to the universal constant, the speed of light.

The verification of our meteorite find may be by a simple visual examination or it may take a series of chemical and geological tests to firmly establish its identity.  Regardless, just like the validation of Einstein’s theory we carry out the explanation process by finding ways to prove or disprove our theory. This is the hard work side of scientific research. Additionally,  it will take unique skills and expertise to devise experiments needed to prove or disprove a given theory. The experiments themselves are examples of creative, scientific thought. I remember all those seemingly dumb and dull lab experiments I had to do in Chemistry and Physics  in high school. Then, when patient and very caring teachers in both courses took the time to explain to me just what the experiments were and how they related to the scientific research process, I quickly discarded my earlier ratings of “dumb” and “dull.”

Our experiments are an essential part of the explanation process that follows our discoveries. If you wish to learn more about experiments and experimental design just click this link. In addition to conducting experiments to verify our theory, there are times when we will conduct observations of natural phenomena that enable us to see results that prove our explanation. This was a vital part of the process that scientist/astronomers used in verifying Einstein’s theories about light and gravity.  It took the precise observations of several total solar eclipses over several years to fully verify those explanations.  Once this happened, his theory became the most totally encompassing theory on the nature of our universe.  Despite this, Einstein, like all serious and dedicated scientists, was not satisfied and spent the rest of his life seeking (exploring) to build a theory, which he termed a unified field theory, or a theory that pulled everything in physics under one roof.  That theory has yet to be formulated, but it has gained new vigor as physicists once again seek to pull all of physics into one grand explanation.

So, as exciting as explorations and discoveries are, the process of explaining our finds can be equally challenging and exciting. They are highly exciting as we devise both experiments and observations that help us both explain and verify what we found during our explorations. They are also exciting because in devising ways to explain our discovery we must explore ways to achieve that explanation. In doing that we add to the great wealth of scientific research strategies.

Once we take that momentous step to explore, we open wide the doors of science and expose to all the amazing and enduring wonders of the universe. Please, tell me when we will be exploring again.