New planet may help Silicon Valley live its cliché

August 25, 2016

Proxima b, the just-spotted Earth-like body in the star system nearest the sun, could be reached in 20 years by a super-fast spacecraft being financed by tech titan Yuri Milner. Making our world a better place is a startup bromide. Visiting another would deliver on the promise.

Pluto and pentaquarks boost non-profit science

July 14, 2015

NASA’s distant mission has gone viral, while European researchers have accidentally proven a 50-year-old theory about matter. Open-ended research at, say, Google is valuable, but government-funded basic science offers unmatched intellectual gains and unexpected practical benefits.

SpaceX flameout hardly heralds failure

June 29, 2015

Space flight is like the venture capital industry in reverse: Most launches succeed, but a prominent few explode spectacularly. The formidable barriers to entry, rivals’ similar failures and SpaceX’s relatively low costs mean Elon Musk’s company remains on the right trajectory.

Space mining plan more than just sci-fi fantasy

April 24, 2012

A U.S. company’s plan to scour asteroids for precious metals sounds bonkers. Its success depends on huge technical leaps and stratospheric prices. But even if the project never returns a single rock to Earth, the innovations it spawns could reward its billionaire backers.