Kepler-22b -- Comfortably Circling within the Habitable ZoneThis diagram compares our own solar system to Kepler-22, a star system containing the first "habitable zone" planet discovered by NASA's Kepler mission. The habitable zone is the sweet spot around a star where temperatures are right for water to exist in its liquid form. Liquid water is essential for life on Earth.Kepler-22's star is a bit smaller than our sun, so its habitable zone is slightly closer in. The diagram shows an artist's rendering of the planet comfortably orbiting within the habitable zone, similar to where Earth circles the sun. Kepler-22b has a yearly orbit of 289 days. The planet is the smallest known to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a sun-like star. It's about 2.4 times the size of Earth.
Now, the list is getting longer to include Indians, tourists, miners and even a porn star who goes by the name of Coco Brown.
Reuters reported on Thursday that India is set to launch its first Mars mission in 2013. Indian President Pranab Mukherjee announced the Asian country's cosmic ambitions in a bid to catch up with other space giants such as the U.S., Russia and China.
In preparation for the Mars sojourn, India will send a satellite in October through an unmanned spacecraft to orbit the red plant. The programme costs the Asian nation $83 million.
The made-in-India spacecraft will take nine months to reach Mars and then will launch itself in an elliptical orbit about 500 kilometres from the red planet.
Despite the widespread poverty in India, a nation with more than 1 billion residents, India started its space exploration programme way back in 1962. Five years ago, India's Chandrayaan satellite discovered evidence of water on the moon, and by 2014, India plans to land a wheeled rover on the moon.
The ambitious Mars project, however, has been met criticisms, but the government insisted its space programme has practical applications to daily Indian life.
If India's plans would push through, it would be ahead of another lofty plan announced on Thursday by the Inspiration Mars Foundation, which aims to make a historic trip to Mars and back in 501 days.
The foundation was formed by millionaire Dennis Tito, the first space tourist, who paid $20 million to reach space via a Russian rocket in 2011. His planned Mars journey is still in 2018.
However, the 72-year-old millionaire will give a talk on Feb 28 about the celestial journey at the IEEE Aerospace Conference where the foundation will present its Mars mission in detail.
The Mars trip would use a modified version of SpaceX's Dragon capsule.
But the trip to Mars won't be as regular as daily train runs since timing is critical, dependent on the orbits of the Earth and Mars. After the 2018 mission, the next Mars trip would only be available on 2031 based on the orbits of the two planets.
The popularity of space journeys could be gauged by this YouTube video which has logged more than 15 million hits.
The space ventures, which includes plans by miners to search for rare minerals in outer space, would certainly present many clever but naughty and humorous scenarios for cartoonists and meme makers to play with.
The scenarios would include Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart scouring Venus for coal and iron ore and sari-garbed Indian astronauts popping spicy capsules for their meals. But definitely, Coco Brown would not be making porn films while in outer space since that area has different laws of gravity that the triple X-rated film actress is typically used to.
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