This Friday, the scientists at NASA will make humanity’s oldest dream a reality. At 4:30 AM on October 9, America will blow up the moon.

Who The Fuck Do You Think You Are Controlling My Tides, Moon. Youre Not Even A Planet. You Make Me Sick.

Who The Fuck Do You Think You Are Controlling My Tides, Moon? You Aren't Even A Fucking Planet. You Make Me Sick.

The LCROSS mission will launch an empty fuel container at the moon at about twice the speed of a bullet, raising a cloud of dust and particulate matter miles above it’s surface, ostensibly providing insight into the unexplained presence of ice on the moon and helping researchers discern if liquid water ever existed there.

Of course, this ridiculous story is just a cover for the real LCROSS mission – to find a chink in the moon’s unbreakable dusty armor, so that we may once and finally rid ourselves of that hateful orbiting chunk of rock, staring down on us in judgment like the hollow eye of an inscrutable god. This has been the goal of all human space exploration since the first manned mission to the moon. Despite their acquisition of a staggering number of moon rocks, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and some other dude made almost no headway in learning the secret weakness of the moon. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this failure that has left members of the mission depressed, angry, unbalanced and violent upon their return to Earth. And well it should – if anyone’s staggering scientific failure deserves to render them broken shadows of men, it’s this bunch of losers.

The Moon Landing - Americas Most Crippling Defeat.

The Moon Landing - America's Most Crippling Defeat.

On Friday, NASA has it’s chance at redemption, and an empty fuel container may finally succeed where legions of men have failed – in revealing how we can finally end the tyrannical reign of our most hated lunar nemesis. But just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a small army of nerds with expensive telescopes to vaporize our only natural terrestrial satellite. Which is why NASA is asking amateur astronomers to keep their eyes trained on the impact site, ensuring that no detail is missed. So if you have an expensive telescope and no social life, which, let’s face it, are not exactly mutually exclusive, please do your civic duty – stay up until 4:30 Friday morning and help us learn how to finally kill the moon.

Meanwhile, those of us who don’t have access to thousands of dollars worth of optical equipment but still want to swell with pride when our mighty nation bitchslaps the moon can do what right thinking, patriotic Americans have been doing to feel a sense of civic engagement for years – whip up some nachos, crack a High Life and watch it on TV.

And of course, those of you who are already champing at the bit for the United States to HURRY THE FUCK UP AND DESTROY THE MOON ALREADY!!! – well you just take it easy there partner. Cool your jets and check out the simulation below, courtesy of the late, great Mr. Show.

Lots of really awesome images from the depths of space this week, starting with images from the refurbished Hubble Space Telescope.

Granted a new lease on life courtesy of it’s recent retrofit, the venerable observatory showed everyone that it’s still got what it takes. Check out images of stars being born inside the Carina Nebula and a close up of the super dense Omega Centauri star cluster at HubbleSite.

The relative new kid on the block, NASA’s Swift satellite, is no slouch either though. This week it sent back a truly spectacular mosaic image of the Andromeda galaxy, giving us the most complete view so far of our nearest neighbor, galactically speaking.

Not to be cut out of the act, Esa’s Planck observatory has started strutting it’s stuff this week as well, sending back thermal images of the oldest light in the universe which are important to our understanding of the cosmos, if a little yawn inducing aesthetically.

I See You!

I See You!

Now sure, the far off NGC 1097 galaxy looks, to the untrained observer, like the eye of some angry God, glaring down upon us disapprovingly.

But it’s not. It’s something even cooler.

What looks to be the pupil in this image, captured by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, is actually an enormous black hole that weighs in at more than 100 million times the mass of our sun.

The bright white glow it produces stems from the fact that it is surrounded by a star nursery, where new stars are being formed at an astonishing rate.

Also notable in this fantastic image is the large blue dot to the left of center, nestled between the two leftmost spiral arms. This object is NGC 1097’s smaller companion galaxy, which may be “poking through” the larger galaxy, as researcher George Helou puts it, or might just be nicely placed to say cheese at the moment. What it is not, is a cataract on the eye of an all powerful deity.

So just sit back, appreciate how beautiful and strange the universe really is, and remember – although God almost certainly disapproves of a great many of your lifestyle choices, he is not staring at you from 50 million light years away. Probably.

Sleep tight!

I know we’re all wondering about what the Next Big Space Thing is going to be, especially since everybody seems to have spontaneously realized that in the forty years since we landed on the moon, the only space missions that haven’t been kind of boring have been the ones that were tragic.

The trendy answer seems to be “We’re going to Mars!” This despite the fact that NASA is about to retire the space shuttle fleet and the closest that we’ve gotten to training people for the mission is isolating a bunch of dudes in a box for a fraction of the time it would take to complete a trip to the planet, and this without the common courtesy to invite Pauly Shore and Steven Baldwin.

Don’t get me wrong – landing on the red planet is a nice idea. It’s noble and ambitious and would be super awesome to see. But seriously, no one gets to even bring up a manned mission to Mars until we can keep the shitter on the International Space Station working for more than a year at a stretch. End of story.

More new images from Herschel Space Observatory have arrived, and you can check out the whole spread at their website here. They aren’t as impressive as the last composite of the M51 Whirlpool Galaxy, but for images that still represent rough drafts of the data we can eventually hope to see after the equipment on board the probe is fully calibrated, they’re exceptionally promising.

Though something less than breathtaking aesthetically, these shots do give Herschel a chance to flex it’s analytical muscle. Each image is more than just a still photo of celestial objects like the Cat’s Eye Nebula. The observatory also provides important data on their physical properties and chemical composition by taking photos of objects at specific wavelengths.

A recent Twitter post alluding to failed activities and urgent re-planning aside, calibration on Herschel seems to be going swimmingly, with results so far exceeding researchers expectations. Scientists at the European Space Agency are sanguine that they will have the observatory running at full speed shortly, and hope to have new scientific results courtesy of the data the craft will provide before the end of 2009.

The first images from the European Union’s fancy new Herschel Space Observatory have arrived, and ahead of schedule no less.

Scientists working with the project have made the announcement with caveats attached, reminding the public that the Herschel and it’s Photoconductor Array Camera and Spectrometer are new tools, and will take some adjusting before they’re properly tuned. Of course, this makes the Observatory’s first glimpses of the Whirlpool Galaxy (that’s M51, if you’re feeling nasty) all the more impressive for being essentially rough drafts. They’ve also provided side by side comparisons of the new Herschel images and images of the same galaxy taken by NASA’a Spitzer space telescope, along with the following statement:

The obvious advantage of the larger size of the telescope is clearly reflected in the much higher resolution of the image: Herschel reveals structures that cannot be discerned in the Spitzer image.

Herschel has certainly earned it’s bragging rights here, having accomplished the difficult task of making what was once a state of the art photograph of the unsurpassed glory of deep space and the majesty of the universe look like a total piece of crap. But it’s hard not to see the statement as a sort of kicking a space agency when it’s down. Pieces are actively falling off the Hubble like my grandmother’s Oldsmobile. This week brought a reminder that the remaining fleet of space shuttles is held together mostly by duct tape, spit and happy thoughts. And American astronauts are faced with the prospect of calling up Russia every time they need a ride to the ISS anytime in the nest five years. With all this taken into consideration, it’s not as if NASA needed another reminder of it’s inadeqacies. But hey, there it is.