Feeds

Zeppelin-borne boffins in Bay Area alien 'extremophile' hunt

NASA dirigible deploys hyperspectral psychic probe

The next step in data security

NASA says it is searching for aliens in the neighbourhood of San Francisco, using a Zeppelin.

The Zeppelin Eureka above the Golden Gate bridge. Credit: Airship Ventures

A target-rich environment for extremophile psychic aliens.

The space agency announced the scheme last week, saying it has an agreement with Californian firm Airship Ventures Inc. Airship Ventures operates the Zeppelin Eureka, a "Neue Technologie" (NT) dirigible from Luftschifftechnik GmbH of Friedrichshafen in Germany, the successor to Count von Zeppelin's original venture.

NT Zeppelins are unlike the blimps which make up most dirigible lighter-than-air traffic nowadays, as they don't maintain their shape entirely by inflation. There is a partial internal structure of glass-reinforced plastic and aramid, offering better stiffness and linking the propulsion, steering and gondola together. This means that the ships are technically speaking semi-rigids, more closely resembling the monster rigids of yesteryear than blimps.

Unlike most of the megaships of the old days, however, the NTs are inflated with helium and so avoid the fire and explosion risk associated with hydrogen*. They are also a good deal smaller.

Airship Eureka, however, is apparently quite big enough to carry a NASA "hyperspectral scanning imager" which "measures 256 bands of color imagery in the visible and near infrared spectrum". According to space-agency spokesmen, boffins from NASA's Ames research centre (handily co-located with Airship ventures at former US Navy airship base Moffett Field) are chuffed as ninepence to make scientific measurements using the dirigible as a platform.

In particular, the Ames brains are apparently using the hyperspectral scanner aboard Eureka to look for "extremophile" alien-like life, possibly intelligent, in the vicinity of San Francisco. According to NASA:

In collaboration with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, scientists studied the extremophile biota in the south bay salt ponds using the hyperspectral scanning imager to identify photosynthetic pigments.

The agency also talks of other, perhaps even more radical research to be carried out by its Californian dirigible-riding boffins.

“We are very interested in the unique capabilities of the Zeppelin to enable remote sensing and [other things] not previously practical,” says Stephen Dunagan of NASA Ames.

It's not immediately clear how an airship would help with remote viewing - aka "psychic spying" - though it's always possible that Dunagan means some other kind of remote sensing. ®

Bootnote

*People who believe that hydrogen is perfectly safe for use in airships because the Hindenburg was "painted with rocket fuel" or something - please take it up with the Zeppelin engineers, not us. Maybe have a read of this first, too.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.