Down to Earth
NASA has finalized an agreement with Boeing to use the extra seats on two Soyuz flights to the ISS over the next year and a half for additional US astronauts. There is some contractual stuff going on here, but basically NASA is going to use seats that Roscosmos was going to leave empty to save money.
Virgin Galactic has spun off its LauncherOne program into a new company called Virgin Orbit.
Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin is now getting in on the new moon missions also. According to the Washington Post (owned by Bezos), Blue Origin has floated a proposal to the new US presidential administration that they want to help support NASA missions to the moon with their Blue Moon concept.
PBS News Hour did a brief segment on all of this new interest in lunar missions:
Two rocket launches since my last post:
- United Launch Alliance launched an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg California, carrying two satellites for the NRO.
- China launched one satellite on their new Kaituozhe-2 rocket.
It’s hard to keep up with the current ISS crew, the members of Expedition 50, as they tweet like its all they do in what little spare time they have. Here’s a selection of the best pictures from just the last week.
— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) February 27, 2017
— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) February 28, 2017
— Shane Kimbrough (@astro_kimbrough) February 28, 2017
— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) March 1, 2017
— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) March 3, 2017
— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) March 4, 2017
— Shane Kimbrough (@astro_kimbrough) March 5, 2017
— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) March 6, 2017
— Shane Kimbrough (@astro_kimbrough) March 6, 2017
Around the Solar System
NASA’s MAVEN probe in orbit of Mars executed an avoidance maneuver of about 0.4 m/s to avoid colliding with the moon Phobos. That velocity change is small, about on the order of the debris avoidance maneuvers we do with the ISS.
Check out these dust devils spotted by Curiosity rover on Mars.
Did you know that Saturn’s moon Enceladus is half cratered and half smooth? Check out this recent image from NASA’s Cassini probe to see for yourself.