Hal Clement, we need you

I read in the Reuters  today about this astronomical discovery:

Hot “ice” may cover recently discovered planet

By Maggie Fox

An odd planet the size of Neptune, made mostly of hot, solid water, has been discovered orbiting a nearby star and offers evidence that other planets may be covered with oceans, European astronomers reported on Wednesday.

Called GJ 436b, the planet orbits quickly around a cool, red star some 30 light-years away, the team at the Geneva Observatory said.

“It’s not a very welcoming planet,” Frederic Pont, an astronomer who helped make the discovery, said in a telephone interview. The planet is hot because it is near its star and under high pressure because of its mass.

“The water is frozen by the pressure but it’s hot. It’s a bit strange — we are used to water changing conditions because of temperature, but in fact water can also be solidified by pressure,” Pont said.

The planet is also likely blanketed by hydrogen, the researchers said — conditions hardly conducive to life. But if there is water, there could be water on other planets in other solar systems and thus life as we know it.

My comment: Solid Hot Ice coats a burning gas giant hanging close to its red dwarf parent star !! Wonders of science!
What we need is the next generation of Hard SF writers to set stories on these fascinating new extrasolar worlds, speculate what kinds of aliens might live and prosper there. Wow.

30 lightyear away, eh? Let me think. With a working Orion-style drive, assuming a payload, for purposes of rough calculation the mass of, let us say, Skylab or 20000 kg; figure that every ton of fully loaded and fueled spacecraft has a volume of 5 to 10 cubic meters, and ten percent of the fully loaded mass spacecraft mass is structural mass. Now, postulating an exhaust velocity of 30000000 m/s, and assuming this is all fuel, and plugging in the values for the rocket equation …. how many years, assuming equal periods of acceleration and deceleration at both ends, minus the relative motion of the star GJ4356 versus Sol … in terms of time, it should take us … let me get about my slipstick … Aha! here we go. My rough back-of-the-envelope calculations show that, under the assumption that we are working within the confines of modern technology, and assuming no fundamental breakthroughs in engineering, and assuming we advance this project at the same rate as other space exploration projects, it should get to his new planet in roughly about … NEVER because OUR SPACE PROGRAM IS TOTALLY DIS-FUNCTIONAL and WORTHLESS pack of time serving BUREAUCRATS who haven’t done anything but throw robots at the outer planets ever since Apollo 17! Do you know when the last moonshot was?? 1972! That was four years before the first airing of Charles’ Angels, it was so long ago. Aren’t those girls grandmas now? THIRTY FIVE FRELLING YEARS SINCE WE PUT A MAN ON THE MOON !!! That’s almost four decades!!!! Do you know what our forefathers could accomplish in  four decades? John Ericsson designed the steam-powered ironclad Monitor in1862; forty-one years later the Wright Brothers flew the first successful heavier-than-air flying machine; four decades later, in 1947, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the first faster-than-sound jet aircraft. Ack! Gack!! Choking on geek-rage! Where’s my flying car? It’s 2007, for Kal-El’s sake! This is the Future!