Archive for the ‘Mars’ Category
Down to Earth
Virgin Galactic has hired two new pilots, including former Space Shuttle Commander and Navy TOPGUN pilot, Frederick “CJ” Sturckow. Awesome!
At the Kennedy Space Center’s new visitor center, the payload bay doors were opened on Space Shuttle Atlantis, which is slated to go on display this summer.
In honor of the new Star Trek movie, here’s something that has nothing to do with space at all. But it’s funny.
A lot has happened at the space station in the past week and a half! Apart from Soyuz TMA-07M returning to Earth on Monday, May 13…
…on Thursday, May 9, in the morning, (while I was working in the Flight Control Room) the astronauts noticed some mysterious debris floating outside the space station…
…which led to an emergency spacewalk to fix a leaky coolant pump only two days later.
For more information, check out my friend and colleague, Anthony, talking about the space station quick fix.
Chris Hadfield’s return to Earth marks the end of a very successful mission that was more than just a typical ISS expedition. Commander Hadfield reached out to people through social media more than any astronaut before. Here is a small “greatest hits” list of some of his photography. But for me, even better than all the pictures from his mission, was the way Hadfield seamlessly connected his love of music to space. Check out this music video he released just hours before coming home last week.
In less successful orbital news, the Kepler Space Telescope – NASA’s planet-finding spacecraft – seems to be in trouble. On May 15, NASA announced that a second of Kepler’s four reaction wheels may be failed. Kepler needs 3 reaction wheels to accurately point the telescope for precision science measurements. If they cannot recover the lost reaction wheel, Kepler’s mission is effectively done. Kepler has been able to discover thousands of planets in our galaxy (most still being officially “confirmed”) but it easily has thousands more left to discover. Save Kepler!
Around the Solar System
In only one day last week, the sun emitted three X-class solar flares (X-class is the biggest class of solar flare, but just like the earthquake scale, an X10 is significantly bigger than an X2, so it’s all relative). Welcome to solar maximum! If you live somewhere where you can see it, there should be some good aurora to see this year.
Remember that rover on Mars? No, not the bigger shiny new one, that one on the other side of the planet – Opportunity. The plucky rover that could just hit a distance record for NASA set by the Apollo 17 moon rover in 1972. Back in 1972, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmidt drove their lunar rover 35.74 km in just a few days. After almost 10 years on Mars, Opportunity just broke that record this week. Also, there’s still the Russian moon rover Lunokhod 2 which drove 37 km in 1973. Opportunity still has a ways to go. But it is amazing that she is still going at all!
Down to Earth
Earlier this month, the White House released their proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2014. Which includes an allocation of $17.7 billion for NASA. Much has been said about the budget already – but the focuses seem to be on the $200 million cut from planetary science and the proposal to start planning an asteroid retrieval mission. Yes, you read that right, the idea is that NASA will send a robotic mission to find a worthy asteroid to drag back to cislunar space (that’s fancy space talk for bringing it as close to Earth as the moon). This may be the direction, focus, and “mission” that many have been saying was lacking from NASA’s portfolio since the cancellation of Constellation and the Space Shuttle. It is far too early to know what will come of it, at least until the mission starts being paid for in 2014. Personally, I think the idea makes sense and is exciting… more thoughts on this in a later post.
In truly down to Earth news, the ambitious Thirty Meter Telescope project received a permit to begin construction atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. They project plans to begin construction in early 2014. the Thirty Meter Telescope (or TMT) will have almost 10 times the light gathering area of the Keck telescopes, also on Mauna Kea. TMT is going to be an amazing tool for astronomers. It should be able to look “further back in time” and see aspects of the beginning of the universe as well as be an awesome exoplanet finding tool, among many other science applications.
The Navy has announced they will be naming a new research vessel after Sally Ride (first American woman in space).
Virgin Galactic has been busy doing glide flights of SpaceShipTwo, getting ready for their first powered flight this year. In their most recent flight last week, the engine had a “cold flow” test – they flowed some propellant through the engine but did not ignite it.
Boston.com’s “The Big Picture” blog has a nice photo essay of two different Mars analog missions going on here on Earth.
After a planned launch this past Tuesday was delayed, today Orbital Sciences is going to attempt the maiden flight of the Antares rocket, which is planned to take the Cygnus freighter on resupply flights to the ISS. The launch is planned for 5 PM Eastern today (Saturday, April 20). If you read this in time, you can follow along at Spaceflight Now’s mission status center.
Around the Solar System
The Mars rover Curiosity went into hibernation starting on April 4 for the “solar conjunction”. This is the period when Mars is behind the sun as seen from Earth, making it difficult to communicate with probes at the red planet.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was able to spot the fresh craters left by the GRAIL missions two probes that crashed into the moon last year (on purpose).
Some Mars enthusiasts from Russia have been scouring Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images to look for the lost Mars 3 lander that the USSR sent to Mars in 1971. They seem to have found it!
NASA has announced two new missions in the agencies Astrophysics Explorer Program. Two space telescopes, TESS and NICER, are being developed for launch later this decade. TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Sattelite) is somewhat of a successor to Kepler, and will be an Earth-orbiting satellite that hunts for exoplanets. NICER (Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer) will be attached to the International Space Station and will look at x-ray wavelengths from neutron stars.
It has been a while since I have posted one of my weekly space news links posts. Part of the reason has been a whirlwind move that we (my girlfriend and I) made from our apartment into a new house. We currently don’t have internet, which hampers my blogging a bit. But also, I have been busy at work, including having the privilege of working rather closely on the current SpaceX mission to ISS, which has been exciting. I even attended a joint planning meeting for the mission today to talk about unberth and departure of the Dragon capsule on March 25th, which I will get to support from the Mission Control Center.
Down to Earth
It’s official. As of late last month, the US House of Representatives finally passed a bill to rename the Dryden Flight Research Center in California the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center. The proposal still needs to be approved by the Senate.
An international research team working in Antarctica has found an 18 kg meteorite on the ice surface of that barren continent. This is the largest meteorite find in Antarctica since 1988.
Millionaire and former space tourist, Dennis Tito, announced last month that he intends to create a new space “adventure” (not venture) known as Inspiration Mars. The intent of the project is to send humans (ostensibly a single married couple) on a circum-Martian flight that would take about 500 days. The mission would not involve a landing on the planet, due to cost and complexity, but would seek to inspire a generation and possibly lead to greater adventures (and ventures) in the future. Color me skeptical, but I hope they can do it! Fundraising will be a challenge.
Here are some helpful ideas of how Inspiration Mars might be able to generate revenue to make their mission a success.
SpaceX did another hover test of their huge Grasshopper vertical landing test rocket. Cool stuff.
On March 1, SpaceX successfully launched another Dragon cargo craft to ISS on the first attempt.
SpaceX had some issues with their propellant system that delayed their spacecraft’s arrival at ISS by a day. Dragon arrived with no problems on Sunday, March 3, after many meetings to discuss the issues and agree to a replan. I was working in the Houston Mission control Center that weekend and was impressed to see the machine of mission operations chugging away to produce such a quick turnaround of the timeline!
I enjoyed watching the ISS crew open the Dragon hatch and begin unloading on Sunday evening, which I already wrote about in a previous post.
Around the Solar System
On Mars, the Curiosity rover is having some unknown computer memory issues. On February 28th, ground controllers intentionally commanded the rover to use the backup computer, which put the rover into safe mode (coincidentally, on the same day that SpaceX’s Dragon capsule was having issues). The rover is currently functioning while teams back on Earth prepare to send software “patches” to the rover later this week.
NASA’s Van Allen Probe mission has discovered a third distinct radiation belt around Earth.
This week, the comet panSTARRS is making an appearance in the Northern hemisphere’s skies. This is one of the two comets (the other being comet Lemmon) that were supposed to make a splash this year. PanSTARRS has not turned out to be dimmer than hoped, but still worth looking for. The comet just passed the sun and is coming around the other side, which is why it is fading out of peak brightness while also creeping higher above the horizon after sunset. I was able to find panSTARRS with my binoculars this evening and she is definitely pretty, if small.
Speaking of comets, a newly discovered comet, named Siding Spring, is predicted to have a very close approach of Mars (not us, phew!) in late 2014. The uncertainty in the orbit leaves the possibility open that the comet make actually impact Mars. This would be a bad day for Mars and our spacecraft stationed there. Phil Plait explores the possibility of destruction, while Emily Lakdawalla considers the more benign possibility of a nice meteor shower.
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.
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
Well, these guys are decidedly not down to Earth, but since they haven’t gone anywhere yet, I put them here - Golden Spike is the latest space industry startup with big dreams. They think they can make a profit flying manned missions to the moon in the 2020s. I wish them luck!
You can now purchase SpaceX mission patches from their online company store.
Look out for Geminid meteors later this week!
The Russians have finally finished building Nauka, or the MLM, a large module that has been slated to fly to the ISS for some time. According to the Russian press they plan to launch in early 2014. This module will add nearly 1/3 to the size of the Russian pat of ISS but has been delayed for years.
Speaking of the Russian space program, their Proton rocket had its third upper stage failure in under 18 months when the launch on December 8 was not able to place its communications satellite payload in the expected orbit. This is indeed the same class of rocket that will be needed to launch the MLM to ISS in a year or two. the Breeze-M upper stage that is causing all of these problems is not common to the Soyuz family of rockets used to launch small payloads and astronauts to ISS.
The Air Force is scheduled to launch the third flight of their X-37B tomorrow. The flight had been delayed due to a failure of a different United Launch Alliance rocket that uses the same upper stage RL-10 engine. The problem was determined to be a fuel leak that should not affect the upcoming launch.
The jumping spider Nefertiti that spent time on the ISS died in the Smithsonian last week. The spider went on display and was expected to make it a few months but only survived a few days.
Chris Hadfield is getting set to launch on a Soyuz next week with the rest of his Expedition 35 crew. The Universe Today has a nice feature on Hadfield, who will be the first Canadian commander of ISS.
Around the Solar System
The much anticipated press briefing about recent Curiosity rover results happened last week at the AGU (American Geophysical Union) meeting in San Francisco. The summary is that no, the rover did not make a big discovery, much to the disappointment of the online hype machine. Emily Lakdawalla has a great summary of what exactly happened and why the results -basically a first test of the rovers instruments that showed they work great – are exciting nonetheless.
NASA last week announced a 2020 mission to send another MSL-class rover to Mars. The rover is being jokingly called MSL 2.0 or the MSL sequel because a key part of the announcement is that the new rover will use mission architecture and even spare parts from the MSL mission. Interestingly, the science instruments and objectives for the mission have not been defined yet. Really the announcement was just to tell the public that a new rover mission is being planned, not what it will be exactly.
There have been some very mixed reactions in the planetary science community about this new 2020 rover. Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society explains how the mission does not appear to follow the Decadal Survey. Casey Dreier explains the budget details behind the mission. Lastly, I enjoyed this assessment by Andrew Symes.
This gravity map of the moon is just cool.
There will be a close flyby of Earth by two asteroids tomorrow, the 11th. One is a small rock just discovered just yesterday. The other is 4179 Toutatis, a large NEA we have known about since the early 90s. The Toutatis encounter is special because China’s Chang’E 2 orbiter will be attempting a flyby on December 13. This will be the first deep-space rendezvous by the Chinese.
Because it’s Cool
This volcanic ice cave in the Kamchatka peninsula is just amazing.
Down To Earth
Lots of news about future launches and missions to write about today:
First off, the first test launch of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket – which will be used for missions to ISS – has been delayed into 2013.
Also, SpaceX may not reach ISS again until at least March – a delay of about 2 months – due to investigations into the Falcon 9 engine failure that occurred during their mission this past summer.
The third flight of the U.S. Air Force’s classified X-37B program has been delayed slightly - into December. The delay is presumably due to concerns with reliability of a specific component of the launch vehicle provided by ULA (United Launch Alliance).
The first orbital test article of the Orion spacecraft from Lockheed was discovered to have structural cracks in the shell during pressure testing. This is of course why we do this kind of testing, but it will take some time until we know how much this will delay the program.
In news not related to delays:
SpaceX has purchased more land near Brownsville. The company has been considering Southern Texas a site for a future spaceport – presumably once they begin launching bigger rockets like the Falcon 9 Heavy.
Boeing, which won a large commercial crew award from NASA for its CST-100 capsule – is publically talking about investing more money in the program. Boeing received $460 million to SpaceX’s $440 million in the latest awards from NASA.
The ISS astronaut’s enjoyed some smoked turkey for their Thanksgiving dinner this past Thursday.
News of Sarah Brightman’s (singer) potential trip to ISS in a couple of years only came out a bit over a month ago but there is already rumor from Russia that she might not fly after all. Is it a publicity stunt? A negotiating tactic? Is Russia getting outside pressure to not fly tourists again? Who knows. As a reader at Parabolic Arc points out, when the “New Space” companies start flying in earnest no one will want to spend the dozens of millions of dollars to fly on a Soyuz anyway, so the days of ISS tourists may be up.
Before Expedition 33 returned on Soyuz TMA-05M last weekend, Commander Sunita Williams recorded a nice long tour of ISS. NASA posted an edited version on YouTube. My favorite moment is at 12:45 when Commander Williams points out a view of her Soyuz from the Cupola windows (via Universe Today).
Around the Solar System
Curiosity recently did her first touch-and-go operation. This basically involves doing a scientific reading with her robotic arm on the same day as a long drive, which you can see in the animation below.
Curiosity may be joined by a European Mars lander later in the decade after all. ESA (European Space Agency) has officially reached an agreement with Roscosmos (Russia) to jointly fund and develop the ExoMars orbiter and lander.
There hasn’t been much big news about Kuiper Belt Objects (KBO) recently, so I was excited to see new science about Makemake – discovered in the mid-aughts by Dr. Mike Brown’s successful dwarf planet hunting team.
Down To Earth
The woman who drew the spacecraft names on to several of the Mercury capsules died last week.
NASA’s VAB at Kennedy Space Center is being renovated to support the next era of launch vehicles. Many scaffolds and platforms that were built for the Space Shuttle are being removed.
Up on ISS this past Saturday, Sunita Williams handed command over to fellow NASA astronaut Kevin Ford.
The Soyuz TMA-05M crew then undocked on Sunday evening and returned to a cold and snowy Earth (Jump to 05:40 to see crew exiting Soyuz).
The aerial photos of the rescue crew and capsule on the snowy ground are pretty cool.
The Kepler spacecraft is officially ending its primary mission of 3.5 years. Of course, it is still going strong and is being granted an extended mission. It feels like just yesterday we watched her launch and eagerly anticipated the discoveries to come. Now we have more than the 3 years needed to confirm the existence of planets in Earth-sized orbits around other stars… of which they have discovered several. You can see an interactive list of exoplanet stats at the Kepler website here.
Passing your “primary mission” is mostly just going through puberty for NASA spacecraft. After all, Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity passed her 3 month primary mission over 8 years ago. So, happy adulthood Kepler! Here’s to many more years.
Around the Solar System
The Mars Odyssey Orbiter is on its backup Inertial Measurement Unit. The mission has been at Mars for over 10 years, so failures are not surprising. This is of course another example of an exceptional NASA spacecraft long past “puberty”. Odyssey’s primary mission also ended in 2004. Keep it up Odyssey!
Speaking of Mars, the first data from Curiosity’s radiation detection equipment was publiclly released. Based on the data, the level of radiation on the Martian surface is actually reasonable – the real trick is managing radiation on humans on their trip through interplanetary space to get there.
Speaking of exoplanets, astronomers at the Subaru telescope in Hawaii have taken a new direct image of a planet orbiting a star only 170 light years away.
NASA announced a recent discovery – using orbital observatories Spitzer and Hubble – of the most distant/ancient galaxy ever found. Go to Phil Plait’s blog for the picture and a good discussion.
Down to Earth
A couple election results that impact the space world:
Former astronaut Jose Hernandez did not win his race in California to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
A significant number of the representatives on the House committee on Science, Space, and Technology lost their seats. Also, the former chairman, Ralph Hall, was term limited on the committee and many are seeking to take his chairmanship.
A NASA study of climate data shows that models that project more global warming tend to be more accurate on certain markers – the conclusion being that warmer is more likely.
The Seattle Museum of Flight opened their new space hall this weekend, which includes the Space Shuttle Full Fuselage Trainer. You can now visit full-sized space shuttles (real or mockup) in the following major cities: New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, D.C., and eventually Florida.
Summer has arrived in Antarctica, bringing the first supply plane to the research base Concordia in months. Not much different than a space outpost, really.
Any IT geek readers out there might enjoy reading about this NASA test of their new “interplanetary internet”.
Around the Solar System
Check out this strange moon of Saturn – Methone.
Cool picture from LRO of a rock that bounced down a hill on the moon.
A happy crater on Mercury.
Mars rover Curiosity made it to 90 Martian days last week!
A new planet discovered about 40 light years away is at the right distance from its start to support liquid water.
Have to share this APOD just for its sheer beauty.
Down to Earth
Atlantis was rolled from the VAB to the KSC visitor center last week. NASA no longer has the “title” to the last orbiter to fly in space.
Roscosmos has announched their latest Cosmonaut candidates. NASA’s class of 2013 still pending.
SpaceX had another test flight of their Grasshopper rocket (via Parabolic Arc).
Interesting stat: China launches more rockets to space in 2011 than the United States.
Expedition 33 astronauts Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide completed an EVA to help save the thermal control system for a crucial power channel. You can read about the work they did here (via Space Cadet Gets Moving). The fun part of the spacewalk was the deployment of a radiator that had been stowed for about 6 years. Here are my action shots of the radiator partially and then fully deployed.
It was a busy week on ISS. The day before the spacewalk we also docked a new Progress freighter.
Here’s a NASA TV weekly recap of all that went on at ISS last week, if you are interested.
Around the Solar System
You’ve got to love this full self-shot by the Curiosity rover.
Speaking of Curiosity, results are coming back from the first in situ soil analysis of the mission. They are finding the soil to be similar to Hawaiian volcanic basalt (which is not unexpected).
The fragmentation of Comet Hergenrother was discovered last week.
I blogged back in February that the planet imaged around Fomalhaut is probably not a planet after all. But it looks like further study of the system has led some astronomers to change their conclusions yet again. Fomalhaut b may yet get to hold the title of first imaged exoplanet.
Speaking of exoplanets, this shirt is cool but likely to become outdated quickly.
A computer model of the Orion Nebula has led some scientists to conclude that there is a moderately sized black hole at the heart of the nebula, in the Trapezium. They will need to redo the Orion fly-through sequence from Hubble 3D.