Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Saturn’s geologically active moons, life 420 million years ago and an attractive legal environment for commercial space activities

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. You may notice that this and future entries are shorter than usual; Career, family and book deal commitments have forced me to cut back some of my projects. Now, here’s today’s news:
g Abodes - The Cassini spacecraft has found that Saturn's icy moons Tethys and Dione are flinging streams of particles into space. The findings suggest that these moons may be geologically active. See article.
g Life - One of the strangest mysteries of the fossil world concerns a tall, cylindrical structure dating to 420 million years ago. Some scientists have called it fungus, others a lichen, still others an alga. A new isotopic analysis has settled the debate, and has helped researchers hone their search for unknown life on other worlds. See http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.phpop=
g Message -Quote of the Day: “If we want to find advanced intelligent life, our best bet is to listen to radio signals, like the SETI project. Interstellar distances are too large for us to travel to more than the closest stars. If we want to explore the galaxy, we’d better send robots, but we won’t live long enough to hear back from them.” — Stephen W. Hawking
g Cosmicus - In order for commercial space activities to grow, there must be an attractive legal environment. Unfortunately existing space law consists mostly of some inter-governmental treaties negotiated during the cold war, which are quite inappropriate for business. As an example, under existing law, governments are liable for damage caused by any launches from their territory. This is quite different from other transport industries, such as shipping and air transport, which are governed mainly by commercial law, and liability for any damage caused by an accident is borne by commercial insurance companies. There's no reason why flights to and from orbit should be different. In the worst case, a passenger launch vehicle carrying 50 people that crashed on a city would cause less damage than an airliner carrying 500 people. See http://www.spacefuture.com/habitat/law.shtml.

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