Crowdfunding the hunt for habitable moons

We've talked before about scientists using Rockethub to fund basic laboratory research—stuff that's important, but not likely to lead immediately to new technologies or other marketable products.

It's often hard to find the funding necessary to support this kind of research, and crowd funding is a great way to leverage public interest in science. Better yet, there's now a whole crowd-funding website dedicated specifically to the sciences.

The video above explains one of the projects that's trying to raise money through Petridish right now. David Kipping is a Harvard postdoc and a NASA Carl Sagan fellow. He wants to conduct the first ever survey of exomoons—moons outside our solar system.

Partially, his research is about understanding the universe. Knowing more about exomoons will teach us a lot about how solar systems, in general, work. But it's also about that tickly, exciting possibility of life on other planets. As we all learned from watching Return of the Jedi, it is possible to have a habitable moon. So far, the search for habitable exoplanets hasn't taken moons into consideration. Kipping's study would change that. But to make it work, he needs to buy a supercomputer. And for that, he needs your help. Kipping is within $3500 of his goal and has 14 days left to go.

Read more about Kipping's project at Petridish

Find lots more scientific research that needs your support.

Video Link



  1. “As we all learned from watching Return of the Jedi”

    …or A New Hope, as Yavin IV was also a habitable moon.

  2. Wow….something about that image of the ringed planet in the blue sky. I saw the exact same thing once in an incredible dream. There it was, hanging in the sky, and then all of these mathematical equations started scrolling across the sky, from horizon to horizon. When are they going to invent that machine that lets us record our dreams?

  3. The nearest star to our own, Proxima Centauri, is roughly 4.25 lightyears away. With extant technology, it would take roughly 100 years to get there, each way. With proposed nuclear pulse propulsion, it would take roughly 50 years each way.

    Of course, the Centauri stars have no exoplanets – they’re just three stars orbiting each other.

    The nearest *known* exoplanet is Gliese 674 b (not to be confused with the better known but more distant Gliese 581 c), at a distance of roughly 15 lightyears, or about 175 years with nuclear pulse propulsion. Epsilon Eridani b, an unconfirmed but suspected exoplanet, may lie a mere 10 lightyears away, or about 115 years with nuclear pulse propulsion. And even at the speed of light, it’d take a decade each way.

    If you’re going to crowdfund a space-minded research endeavor, you might as well put the money toward researching wormholes, warpcores, jump gates, or other such fantastical dreams of science fiction, because without faster-than-light travel, it’s kind of pointless to locate distant exomoons. They’re simply too far away, even for earth-based observational learning – we rely on pin-pricks of light and gravitational distortions to even *detect* them as it is.

    1. Science has crossed the barrier between imagining possible worlds and fantasising to escape what science in the service of capitalism/corporations has created.
      It has become a game for bored over-educated Western elites with no immediately discernible sense of reality and is much more spiritual in nature than either its language or practitioners would lead us to believe.

    2. Except anything about traveling to these moons is something you read into this. The article mentions why they’d like them habitable: because it gives them a chance of discovering life. Which is a very, very long shot, but I guess sells a bit better than surveying them simply to better understand how the universe is put together, which sounds pointless to all too many people.

  4. How lucky to have been born where and when I was. Comfort, education and the sheer spectacle of seeing the infancy of the internet.
    I lucked out in all sorts of ways that tickle my sci-fi fancy; so feel I am being especially ungrateful to hope that somehow, some way, there will be a massive paradigm shift in our thinking that makes extra-solar travel a species prerogative within my lifetime.
    Shit’s about to get really weird and to miss all that potentia because of some stupid biological reasons irks the hell outta me.
    Oh, first world problems.

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