Down to Earth
Astronaut Janice Voss died this week after a fight with cancer. At the Expedition 28/29 public welcome home last night at Space Center Houston, they played a nice tribute to her. She was clearly a great person as well as astronaut. I never met her, but she will be missed.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has decided to add a leap second this year. A decision to stop using the leap second has been deferred to 2015.
Want to pretend to be an astronaut on Mars and get paid to go to Hawaii? There’s a new Mars analog mission next year mainly to study the long duration affects of a “space diet” and it will be run by the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Apply before March!
NASA has provided details on its plan for commercial crew. Right now they are planning for commercial crew flights as soon as 2017. Let’s hope it works out that way!
Along with those details was an official request for companies to submit bids to become one of the contractors to fly to the ISS with CCICap.
ESA has signed a contract for 8 more Galileo navigation satellites. It’s beginning to look like they may have a fully functional independent constellation before the end of the decade, if not quite a bit sooner.
Starting last year in Expedition 27 the ISS astronuats and the NASA photo/TV folks have really outdone themselves putting together amazing timelapses – the most amazing ones featuring stunning aurora views with low light cameras. But this new timelapse showing a night orbit over the US in near real-time gives you a feel for being onboard the ISS like never before.
Around the solar system
ESA papers based on scientific data from Mars Express reveal evidence for what used to be a vast norther ocean. Here’s a brief description and here’s the very detailed discussion from the Planetary Society. Read the second link if you are not afraid of the phrase “dielectric constant”. Otherwise, proceed at your own risk.
Here is a simple but beautiful full portrait of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, in color (via the Planetary Society blog).
Here’s a cool new exoplanet discovery. A “super-earth” (I don’t like this term, it’s either Earth-like or it isn’t) called Gliese 667C b is orbiting in the habitable zone of the third star of a triple star system. This is actually a small dwarf star orbiting billions of miles around the other two stars – it’s a bit odd. Phil Plait gives a good summary. You can find some nice hard numbers at this exoplanet catalog. For the best diagrams and animations of the planet’s orbit with the habitable zone shaded in, download the Exoplanet app for iPhone.
Because it’s cool
You should follow National Geographic on Twitter, @natgeo. Check out their “Extreme Photo of the Week“.
This is one of the coolest pictures I’ve seen on APOD. In case it’s not clear, you are seeing star trails reflected in the dish of a submillimeter observatory against the backdrop of more star trails.
Do-it-yourself astronaut ice cream (be warned, he goes into technical detail)! This video might put every museum gift shop out of business…
via Mad Art Labs