Archive for the ‘ISS’ Category
Down to Earth
The bad winter weather hasn’t been a problem down here in Texas, of course – but we’re all thinking of our friends in the Northeast that are snowed in. Here’s a NASA satellite timelapse of the blizzard that has been affecting the East coast.
Tomorrow night, Orbital Sciences Corporation will be doing a “hot fire test” on their launch pad in Virginia. the test is in preparation for their first test flight to ISS later this year.
Listen to this duet between Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies and ISS astronaut Chris Hadfield… recorded during Hadfield’s current stay in orbit.
Here is a video of Chris Hadfield’s live discussion with William Shatner last week.
In ISS ops, it has been a busy few days. early Friday morning the ISS did a long maneuver (with myself happily monitoring from the ground!) from facing forward to facing directly backwards to prep for the Progress 48 cargo craft to undock early Saturday morning, which happened as planned (unless you are a huge geek the video below is pretty boring).
Then ISS stayed in that backwards attitude over the weekend awaiting the new Progress 50 cargo craft, which launched earlier today and just docked to ISS at just before 4 PM Eastern.
Since those docking ops are complete, the ISS will be maneuvered back to the normal flight attitude on the night shift tonight (early Tuesday morning). Once again, I have the privileged responsibility of being the guidance and control officer for the maneuver. This will be about the 4th major activity I have worked in the front flight control room for since my most recent certification last year. Very exciting!
There were actually two launches today. In addition to the Progress supply vehicle, NASA launched the LDCM out of Vandenberg in California. LDCM is an Earth observation mission.
Around the Solar System
Curiosity has done its first drilling on Mars.
There is open public voting at plutorocks.com to name the 4th and 5th moons in the busy Pluto system. Voting is only for the next two weeks. You can write-in suggestions if you do not like the list of names they already have.
Live in the Southern hemisphere? Then comet Lemmon may be visible to you if you have a small telescope.
Down to Earth
NASA administrator Charles Bolden and Buzz Aldrin laying a wreath at Arlington.
You thought it was all over last month didn’t you? Well think again. The deal that the 112th Congress agreed to early in January only delayed the “sequestration” of the federal budget. Sequestration is a returning threat if a more permanent deal can’t be reached by March. This will of course have far-reaching impacts in this country, including in space exploration. Here’s a summary from the Planetary Society about what sequestration would mean for NASA’s planetary science programs. The bottom line though is that NASA leadership has not publicly indicated how drastic budget cuts would be dolled out within the administration.
Ron McNair died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. His brother remembers him in a story that was turned into this cartoon by StoryCorps.
Later this morning – at 10:30 AM eastern – famed actor William Shatner will have a public video conference with ISS astronaut Chris Hadfield. As I understand it, some of America’s major news networks plan to cover the brief event.
The large asteroid 2012 DA14 will fly within just 17,200 miles of the Earth next week, on the 15th. That distance is below the roughly 22,400 mile altitude of geosynchronous orbit. The asteroid is about 50 meters or so across so it will be too small to see with the naked eye. I have not read anything that indicates we should be worried about a gravitational “keyhole” for 2012 DA14. It does not seem to be at a high risk for impact in the near future.
In less serious asteroid news, there is one out there with the newly minted official name “Wikipedia”.
There was some speculation earlier this week that the Iranian space monkey launch was faked. The accusation was based on the before and after pictures of the monkey, which appeared to be of a different animal, to experts. Iran has said they simply used the wrong photos, but they did really send their monkey on a successful suborbital flight.
Bigelow Aerospace has posted pricing information for trips to their planned Earth orbit space station. Visitors would fly up on SpaceX’s Dragon capsule or Boeing’s CST-100. The flights are noticeably cheaper than what tourists have paid in the past to travel to ISS. This is all well and good, but I want to know why Bigelow is calling their station “Alpha Station” when some NASA astronauts still refer to ISS as “Space Station Alpha”. Could get confusing.
Around the Solar System
Mercury and Mars are having a very close conjunction in the sky (as seen from Earth). At dusk today, February 7th, you should look West if you have a clear view to the horizon, and you may be lucky enough to spot this unlikely pair. You probably need binoculars to easily see the planets.
Sometimes history just walks up and smacks you in the face – or at least walks up in the form of a 78 year old man who once walked on the moon, more than 40 years ago.
On Tuesday, astronaut and moonwalker Eugene Cernan stopped by FCR-1 (the main control room for ISS mission operations) to see how the program is going many decades after his last steps on the moon, and to share a brief call with the crew aboard ISS.
FCR-1 has been used for continuous ISS operations for many years now and is regularly staffed by flight controllers who can be fairly young (for instance, I have been working in FCR-1 since I was 23). Long before I was born, Eugene Cernan was backup crew on Apollo 7, whose flight control team sat in the very same room in October 1968 – 45 years ago.
Human spaceflight is one of those things that can seem to both stretch and compress history at the same time. To me, the Apollo program is mostly an event to study in history books and memoirs. A bygone era of my profession two generations removed, from which I can still take lessons, but whose glory has long passed. And yet, many of the men and women who made Apollo possible are still around, not least of which are the eight surviving moonwalkers.
The existence of the very space station I fly can be traced back to a presidential decision in 1972 to pursue “low earth orbit infrastructure” as the future of NASA’s manned spaceflight program. this plan included the development of the space shuttle and eventually the large scale construction of a space station. Funding for this long-term plan was approved mere months before Cernan’s astronaut career culminated with his Apollo 17 landing on the moon that December.
Suddenly those words spoken on December 14, 1972 don’t seem so long ago.
I’m on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just [say] what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.
Down to Earth
This week is the time every year for somber reflection at NASA, as it sees the anniversaries of all three of NASA’s spaceflight fatalities: Apollo 1 on January 27, Challenger on January 28, and Columbia on February 1. This coming February marks 10 years since the space shuttle Columbia was lost on mission STS-107. It’s not fun to watch, but I do re-watch this video* from time to time to remind myself that things can and will go wrong in this dangerous business.
*It amazes me the number of cameras that were on hand in Mission Control for Space Shuttle re-entry. In routine ISS operations, I’ve never had to deal with a camera in my face the way these ascent/entry flight controllers did.
The makers of a small budget documentary about Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, lost on Columbia, will air on PBS this Thursday night. I saw an early cut of the film a few years ago and it is well worth watching – I suggest you tune in! Here is their trailer.
Well, he didn’t quite make it to orbit, but an Iranian monkey did fly to space, according to reports out of that country.
The United States government says the monkey’s flight is (officially) unconfirmed.
The Robotic Refueling Mission aboard the ISS wrapped up successfully. The several weeks of operations completed with a successfully simulated refueling, using ethanol, early Monday morning.
And if you need to relax, here’s what it’s like to orbit the Earth from a couple hundred miles up.
Or if you prefer, here is a nice event from last week in which two NASA astronauts on ISS answered student questions live on TV. I enjoyed it live from the Flight Control Room!
Around the Solar System
This month is the 9th anniversary of the Mars Exploration Rovers landing on Mars and the start of Opportunity’s tenth year exploring that planet. Curiosity has a long way to go to match the legacy of Oppy, who landed on January 25, 2004. I can’t wait for her ten year anniversary next year, which I believe she will easily surpass. As Stu, from The Road to Endeavour, points out, Opportunity has spent far more of her life on Mars than she ever did on Earth. She is truly a Martian.
On the other side of Mars from Opportunity, Curiosity has taken her first nighttime pictures! Curiosity can take pictures with white LEDs or ultraviolet light. this can reveal some specific properties of the local geography that are trickier to pinpoint when you have the complex wavelengths of light coming from the sun. In particular, UV light can help Curiosity find fluorescent minerals, which could indicate organics.
Also, Curiosity has discovered lots of evidence of a water-rich past in Gale Crater, including calcium deposits. Curiosity should be doing her first rock drilling very soon!
Because it’s Cool
Stunning exposure of the ISS and the night sky.
NASA TV has been playing this video… awesome.
Down to Earth
Monday night had a stunning Moon and Jupiter conjunction in the sky that I hope you saw if you had clear skies! I was able to view the Moon and Jupiter together on a clear night here in Texas through my binoculars. In case you missed it, here is a collection of images from the conjunction.
Another company that claims it will make billions mining asteroids in a few short years? Yes. Enter, Deep Space Industries.
The ten year anniversary of the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia is coming up. On January 31, a documentary about Israeli Columbia astronaut Ilan Ramon will air on PBS.
In the realm of space law (yes, I know, exciting!) a compromise has been reached regarding liability for space tourism flights out of New Mexico. The new law is intended to appease Virgin Galactic so that they don’t consider leaving the New Mexico spaceport as their home base.
Kazakhstan has not approved all of Russia’s launches from their Baikonaur spaceport for this year (if you need a history refresher – Kazakhstan used to be part of the USSR and that is where the Soviets built their launch facility. Russia continues to use the existing infrastructure in Kazakhstan even now, long after the fall of the USSR). This is unfortunate for the Russian program and a good reason not to have such an important facility in a foreign country. Fortunately for Russia, they are already building a new native facility in the far Eastern reaches of the nation. NASA should pay attention and make sure Texas and Florida don’t secede!
As I wrote about last week, the European planet hunting space telescope CoRoT may be a lost mission. Well, it seems luck is not with astronomers this month; NASA’s Kepler space telescope has had an issue with one of its momentum wheels (excess friction) and is spending a week or so in safe mode, suspending all science, in hopes the situation will improve. Kepler is already down one of 4 reaction wheels, which failed in July. It needs at least 3 to be able to control attitude precisely to do science.
To lighten the mood, here’s a quick NASA bit from The Onion (you have to watch a commercial for their fake Joe Biden book first).
Here is an official statement from NASA about the new Bigelow inflatable module that will be tested on ISS. It seems the module will be scheduled to launch on a SpaceX cargo mission in 2015.
More on future NASA plans: here’s an update on the four companies that are developing vehicles for NASA’s commercial crew program.
And here’s a quick update on Orbital Sciences’ launch schedule for ISS commercial cargo resupply missions.
The Robotic Refueling Mission has continued in earnest this week. I have had the pleasure of working the day shifts in ISS mission control this week, being tangentially involved in these operations by disabling thruster firings to protect the robotics hardware.
Down to Earth
Whether you think the White House’s online petition system a flop or not, you have to appreciate this tongue-in-cheek response to the petition to have NASA build a Death Star.
Although a bit out of the ordinary, I thought that this article about the firearms launched about Soyuz spacecraft (yes, guns) an interesting read.
NASA has officially contracted with private venture Bigelow Aerospace to provide an “inflatable” additional module to the ISS. There is an official press conference out of Las Vegas (where Bigelow is based) tomorrow – none of the early press releases seem to indicate when the module would arrive on orbit.
This week, robotics flight controllers are putting the Robotic Refueling Mission through its paces on the ISS. You can read about the project here or just watch the video below.
It seems the French planet-hunting spacecraft, CoRoT, may truly be lost – and just shortly after receiving a mission extension as well.
Around the Solar System
Check out this video of low altitude imagery from the GRAIL missions shortly before impact on the moon last month.
The scary asteroid Apophis will definitely not hit us for at least 20 years, according to observations during the latest close-ish pass to Earth (still a long way away). Check out this nice simple web tool to see the real-time position of Apophis relative to Earth.
Even more observations of the star Fomalhaut reveal that it may in fact have a planet after all. The new observations clearly show something moving in the orbit that was thought to belong to the planet. These observations are new since the last time I linked to Phil Plait discussing Fomalhaut, back in October.
Speaking of exoplanets, I recently registered at www.planethunters.org after reading about the 15 new planet candidates they have found. This is the first “citizen science” project I have tried that has held my attention.
Because it’s cool
A pretty shot of a C-17 parked in Samoa.
I wouldn’t say that 2012 either came in or went out with a bang (unless the last minute federal budget politiking* strikes you as “a bang”). Nevertheless, 2012 was a busy year for space enthusiasts. The last twelve months held much to wonder, celebrate, contemplate, mourn, debate, and of course explore. Here I will try to sum up the space related events, deaths, discoveries, and anniversaries that I find interesting. If you are interested in a full recap of worldwide events in 2012, I’d suggest starting with the “Year in Pictures” at Boston.com’s “Big Picture” blog – Part I, Part II, and Part III.
In order to try to honor some fallen heroes, I will start out with the saddest part of my recap.
In 2012 we lost three American astronauts – Alan Poindexter, Sally Ride, and Neil Armstrong.
Captain Poindexter was 50 years old when he died in July 2012. He was a veteran of 2 space shuttle flights, having been selected in the 1998 group of astronauts. Coming from a Navy test pilot background, he was the pilot for STS-122 and then Commander of STS-131. 131 was the last night launch of the shuttle program and helped set the record for most women in space at one time – with 3 women on the crew of Discovery plus one on the space station. During his military career Poindexter flew F-14s on carriers – very cool.
Sally Ride needs no explanation. More important people than me provided lots of memories about Sally Ride after her death back in July. She certainly left us too soon – but she left a legacy. Sally Ride Science will continue to do great things, and you should consider supporting them if you can.
And of course, everyone heard when Neil Armstrong died in August at the age of 82. Like Sally Ride, I can provide no words here better than what has already been written. Armstrong was in many ways the model of a public hero and should not have left us so soon.
There would be no astronauts without first someone to inspire us to dream. Thus, we should also remember legendary author Ray Bradbury who died aged 91.
Lastly, engineer Roger Boisjoly died at the age of 73. Mr. Boisjoly is known for being the SRB (Solid Rocket Booster) project manager at Thiokol who warned not to launch mission STS-51L during a meeting the day before the flight. His warnings were ignored and the Space Shuttle Challenger was lost.
Major Events or Discoveries
Whether your interest lies more in planetary exploration, new technology, or manned spaceflight, there were many milestones and missions in 2012.
NASA achieved what I will subjectively dub their triumph of the decade (so far) when the Mars rover Curiosity touched down at Bradbury landing in Gale Crater on August 6th. You have got to love this video…
Curiosity could easily explore Mars for a decade, with its RTG that should keep it powered long enough that something else will wear out first. The vistas we have seen of Gale crater from MSL are stunning and I think she will be a huge source of inspiration – and of course science – for many years ahead.
Curiosity isn’t alone on Mars. Another huge milestone of 2012 is the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity continuing to quietly do its job at Endeavour Crater on the other side of the planet. In fact, Opportunity and Curiosity are now racing each other to find clay minerals known as “phylosillicates”.
SpaceX impressed the world with their first successful (test) flight to the International Space Station in May which was followed up by the first official contracted resupply mission in October.
The Chinese performed their first in orbital rendezvous of a manned spacecraft when Shenzhou 9 docked with the Tiangong 1 space station on June 18.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft continued to explore asteroid Vesta (where it arrived in 2011) and finally departed in September 2012 to start the long interplanetary flight to larger asteroid Ceres, where it will arrive in 2015.
NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft found evidence of water ice in polar craters of Mercury.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft continued to to perform well at Saturn, more than 8 years after arriving (15 years since launch) and discovered a vast river system of methane and ethane on the moon Titan. Time to send the riverboat robots to explore.
Anniversaries: 50 years since Kennedy’s famous “Moon speech” in Texas, 50 years since John Glenn’s orbital flight, and 40 years since the last flight to the moon – Apollo 17.
Back in June many people around the world – including those who are not even space geeks – enjoyed the rare passing of Venus across the face of the sun. The next Venus transit will not be until 2117.
One of my absolute favorite events of 2012 was the discovery of a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B, the nearest star system to Earth. And only a few weeks later, a “super earth” was found in the habitable zone of HD 40307 only 40 light years away. The discovery of exoplanets is turning into the science story of the 21st century…
Unless you are a physics geek. Then the science story of the 21st century will be the ongoing unlocking of secrets of the quantum world, which continued in 2012 with the announcement that the Large Hadron Collider in Europe has discovered the “Higgs Boson”.
But in any case, the idea of people living on a planet at Alpha Centauri is the inspiration for my blog’s name, so I have a bias for the planets.
This year was nostalgic for us Millenials – who grew up watching space shuttle launches – as the three remaining space shuttle orbiters reached their final homes in California, Virginia, and Florida.
NASA and the astronaut office finally caught on to 21st century communications and media in earnest. More astronauts than ever are actively interacting with the general public on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Reddit, and elsewhere on the ‘net. NASA astronauts have made this communication a part of their mission while on ISS, with many of them writing blogs or maintaining exciting Twitter and Flickr streams from space. This will certainly continue in 2013 as the “Net Generation” begins to come of age and will have real influence on the personality of America, and whether we stay committed to space exploration. My guess is that this video helped.
What will 2013 bring? Well, probably most importantly – but least excitingly – are the pending federal budget decisions in Washington, DC. Congress still needs to decide on a 2013 budget and then a 2014 budget. Some of their choices will shape the future of space exploration, especially for planetary science missions.
Here is my list of the more cheery things to look for in 2013:
- Finally the first powered flight tests of tourist space vehicles. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo should be hopping into space this year.
- SpaceX should continue to demonstrate reliability of their rockets as they fly two more missions to the ISS as well as a fairly packed launch schedule for other customers.
- SpaceX’s competitor for ISS commercial flights, Orbital Sciences**, will attempt to make good on their contract with NASA.
- Russia will fly the 50th Progress resupply mission to ISS, this being the 15th year since the launch of the first ISS module.
- Late in 2013, the next Mars launch window will see two missions: NASA’s MAVEN orbiter and India’s first interplanetary mission.
- NASA will launch the LADEE lunar probe.
- Continued excellence in the field of extrasolar planet astronomy – smaller and more numerous rocky planets will be discovered further out from main sequence stars.
Round ups from other blogs
For some other summaries of 2012 in space and science see:
Houston Chronicle’s top 10 skywatching events of 2013 (one is the Quadrantic meteor shower tonight!)
Parabolic Arc’s “NewSpace” year in review (that one’s a quick read)
*yes, Congress did pass a bill to avert the “fiscal cliff” at the very last minute on Tuesday, January 1, 2013
**the author has a small shareholding in Orbital Sciences
Down to Earth
The “NewSpace” venture Stratolaunch intends to have their first test flight out of Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the year 2017.
NASA manager Jesco von Puttkamer has died. I had never actually heard of Mr. Puttkamer until I saw the post of his passing on NASA Watch. You should at least read his Wikipedia page and watch the video below to understand his legacy. Mr. Puttkamer was part of Werner von Braun’s German rocket team that built the Saturn V. Based on that, it seems he worked for NASA for 50 years. Impressive.
Well, the fiscal cliff is still looming… here are some more words from The Planetary Society on how the budget cuts will affect NASA.
I’m sure most of my readers aren’t interested in the legislative side of space news or ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulation) reform. But for those of you that are, the Senate and the President of the US are expected to sign a bill that will remove satellite systems from the munitions list, so that they are no longer under ITAR. Theoretically this should make some aspects of the aerospace industry cheaper and allow more competition from American companies on the world satellite market.
A Christmas message from ISS Commander Kevin Ford.
And a video New Year’s message from all three US segment crew aboard ISS.
Speaking of Christmas messages, it’s too bad I didn’t find this story to post last week. Apparently during Apollo 17, Jack Schmitt wrote his own lunar version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” (via Carnival of Space).
And, saving the best from orbit for last… ISS resident Chris Hadfield has recorded the first original song in space – “Jewel in the Night”. Give it a listen or two.
Around the Solar System
I wrote about the close conjunction in the sky of the Moon and Jupiter last week. I didn’t write about the fact that the Moon would actually pass in front of Jupiter because it was only visible from South America. Phil Plait linked to a cool video of the occultation.
Check out this great visualization of over half a million asteroids in our solar system. The visualization is mainly just to see their orbits but the database looks at the estimated worth of the asteroids in raw materials, as well as their accessibility. The database appears to be inspired by the question “is asteroid mining actually a viable industry?” (via the Houston Chronicle).
Because it’s Cool
I love this art project – a robot traces the trails from the game Lunar Lander on a canvas and shows all of the trails overlaid. It reminded me of the physical model of the Mercury capsule that used be on the world map in early NASA flight control rooms.
Happy Spacey New Year!
I have some ideas on how to write my take on wrapping up 2012 for space enthusiasts, but I will include that in another post. Have a safe new year’s eve everyone.
Down to Earth
SpaceX’s reusable vertical take-off and landing rocket, Grasshopper, had another successful flight. This one longer and higher than the last two.
This is a big rocket. There was a six-foot mannequin riding the side and you wouldn’t see it unless you knew it was there.
SpaceShipTwo, the long awaited tourist space plane, had a first drop test in flight configuration – meaning with the full rocket engine strapped in the back (but not turned on). They are expected to do the first powered flights before the end of 2013.
The Intrepid Air & Space Museum in New York reopened on Friday, Dec 21, but the Space Shuttle Enterprise is still being repaired from damage from Sandy.
NASA has been talking about their next gen space suit, the Z-1, which uses a bright green color scheme that reminds us of Buzz Lightyear.
The rest of the Expedition 34 crew arrived at ISS with no problems on Friday, Dec 21. Jump to 2:15 to see the new guys come through the hatch.
Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford has finally updated his blog since arriving at ISS in the Fall and has shared a few stories.
Around the Solar System
Down to Earth
Before we proceed, let’s get one thing out of the way: please don’t expect anything to change this Friday.
In some less than cheery news that is actually based in reality, some estimates indicate that Johnson Space Center (where I work) would not do well if the pending “sequestration” of US federal spending were to occur.
Yet another lost moon rock display has been located – this one belonging to the State of Alaska. This CollectSpace account of the finding is rather long, but well worth a read if you like shady intrigue…
Early Wednesday morning, a Soyuz launched from Kazakhstan that will bring the Expedition 34 crew on ISS to its full complement of six. The latest flight includes Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, American Tom Marshburn, and first time Soyuz commander Roman Romanenko. The Soyuz mission is numbered TMA-07M, which I point out because their patch is so creative. See if you can spot the cleverness below.
The crew will dock to ISS on Friday.
In anticipation of the launch, Universe Today ran a feature about the legacy of the Soyuz launch vehicle, which has been flying since 1966. I found this discussion of the Soyuz from Chris Hadfield’s perspective more interesting still. Hadfield has done a great job sharing his pre-flight activity via social media and there are some videos worth watching in that last article.
Hadfield’s son, Evan, wrote an article about growing up as an astronaut’s son that is pretty sobering and worth a read. Surely he and his family are happy that Commander Hadfield made it to orbit, but I suspect their fear and stress does not end until he returns to Earth.
NASA is planning to test color-changing lights on ISS that should help with astronauts sleep cycles.
Even the mainstream news media was talking about this bit of space news: the North Korean rocket launch that supposedly put a satellite in orbit. According to Hyperbola Blog, independent experts claim to be tracking the object but it appears to be tumbling in its 100 km orbit and not operating. Unfortunately, Hyperbola does not often cite sources so I’m not sure about the veracity of their post…
Around the Solar System
As planned, China’s Chang’E 2 probe was able to make a close fly-by of NEA Toutatis. Very impressive.
Here’s a sequence of radar observations of Toutatis (via Universe Today).
Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society updated her nifty graphic showing all asteroids and comets visited by humanity’s spacecraft – it now included Toutatis. Toutatis is near the upper right. Emily does not included Vesta, which was visited by the Dawn spacecraft, because it is so much more massive than the others. You can buy a poster print of the graphic at the Planetary Society’s store.
The two lunar gravity probes that make up NASA’s GRAIL mission were deliberately slammed into a mountain on the Moon this past Monday. The impact site was named for Sally Ride, who died this year. Sally Ride helped get the probes to carry the MoonKAMs which were designed only for educational outreach.
If you’re wondering why NASA would blow up a space mission that had only been in operation for about a year, there is a reason! Ebb and Flow orbited the moon at the extremely low 50 km. This required significant amounts of propellant to maintain, but allowed extremely detailed gravity mapping of the moon. This fall, the fuel had all but run out and the science was all but done. Thus, end of GRAIL. You can read more about it on the NASA mission page or on Wikipedia (which has many more source links).
An “international team of astronomers” (the A team?) announced this week (with a published paper and a press release) that they believe they have found a five-planet system around the Sun-like star Tau Ceti. Tau Ceti is only 12 light years from us and initial data indicates one or more of the planets is in the habitable zone of the star. All of the stars are between 2 and 6 Earth-mass. The discovery used new techniques looking at existing data. Thus, sober voices are saying that additional follow-up is needed before the planet(s) can be confirmed. Surely, that followup will come quickly for such an important discovery.