Earlier today a comet passed just 435 miles from a spacecraft. The NASA spacecraft EPOXI took some amazing pictures of the event. Scientists are still working to determine if there was any damage to the spacecraft as the comet passed by.
“There’s a certain exuberance that comes from being out there on the edge of technology, where things are not certain, where there is some risk, and where you make something work.” Joseph Gavin Jr., an MIT-trained engineer and director of the Apollo 11 lunar module program for Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, died on Saturday. A few quotes from Joe about the program's complexity via an old Popular Mechanics article are nice, but this more complete interview providing some fascinating insights on the process and the culture and just how much went into the lunar lander program, from an engineer's perspective, is fantastic.
We are nearing the end of a golden age of astronomy as more than a dozen space observatories reach their end of life in a few years. The only replacement on the horizon is the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2014. Due to its enormous complexity and ever-rising costs, the JWST has starved other projects of funding. The fate of an entire generation of cosmologists and astrophysicists rests on its success.
The race is on: India by 2020, China by 2025 - will the US get there at all?
Live coverage of the rescue operation of the 33 Chilean miners who have been stranded underground for the last 68 days. NASA are helping in more ways than one but it isn't over yet.
NASA has some new maps showing air pollution around the world. It shows PM2.5, that is, Particulate Matter less than 2.5 micrometers in size, small enough to get past normal bodily defenses and cause health problems. [more inside]
These Flickr collections document NASA's 2010 Desert Research and Technology Studies tests (Desert RATS!). [via]
Emily Lakdawalla has published the first 42 of 99 Voyager Mission Status Bulletins (thanks to space fan Tom Faber). Before the days of the internet, updates on space missions were distributed via newsletter. From 1977-1990 NASA published these Voyager newsletters to update scientists and enthusiasts. Both Voyager I and Voyager II are still out there, hurtling toward the stars. Voyager I and II weekly status updates from 1995-present are currently available online. Lakdawalla will be publishing the rest of the bulletins after she indexes them.
Swarming spacecraft to self-destruct for greater good. "Future space probes that operate in cooperative swarms must commit hara-kiri if they begin to fail and risk damaging their comrades, says a recent patent application by NASA. The agency foresees a day when space missions are undertaken not by one large spacecraft but by swarming formations of much smaller, cheaper ones. Such craft could collectively provide a "floating optics" system for a space telescope comprising separate craft flying in formation, for instance. However, should one spacecraft in such a swarm begin to fail and risk a calamitous collision with another, it must sense its end is nigh and put itself on a course that takes it forever away from the swarm – for the greater good of the collective."
This Summer’s Sexiest Images From Saturn. From a billion miles away, the Cassini spacecraft continues to send spectacular images of Saturn and its moons. Cassini has been flying since 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004 after flybys of Earth, Venus and Jupiter. Its mission was originally slated to end in 2008, but it got its first 27 month extension to witness Saturn’s equinox. This year, it was given another life extension until 2017 to keep exploring until Saturn’s northern hemisphere summer solstice. [previously] [more inside]
Space Settlements collects various resources relating to the human colonisation of space: online books (including NASA studies from 1975, 1977 and 1992), a contest for schoolkids (so NASA can steal their ideas, natch), but most importantly, kitschy 70s pictures of proposed space colonies (toroidal, spherical, OR cylindrical!).
The Ice Fracture Explorer is Joseph Shoer's concept for an unmanned expedition into the oceans of Europa. [via]
Astronomers using NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have detected gamma-rays from a nova for the first time, a finding that stunned observers and theorists alike. (via)
The Space Shuttle is still retiring but a U.S. Senate plan (full text PDF), (House version) would add one more flight to the shuttle's career, probably sometime late next summer. The move comes as thousands of jobs stand to be eliminated with the shuttle's retirement. [more inside]
"Tubes of space borscht are on sale in the museum gift shop. “There are white and black tubes. On the white is written: ‘BLONDE.’ On black one: ‘BRUNETTE.’ " Astronauts relate challenges of life in space.
With only two missions remaining as they wind down the space shuttle, NASA has a program to make countless dreams of space travel come (partially) true: Fly Your Face in Space. [more inside]
On July 17th, NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite completed its first survey of the entire sky viewable from Earth. After just seven months in orbit, WISE -- a precursor to the planned James Webb Space Telescope -- has returned more than a million images that provide a close look at celestial objects ranging from distant galaxies to asteroids. The first release of WISE data, covering about 80 percent of the sky, will be delivered to the astronomical community in May of next year, but in the meantime we can see some of the images and animations that NASA has released to date: Galleries (containing just a small selection of images): 1, 2, 3, 4. Videos and Animations: 1, 2 [more inside]
Tom Taylor's Twitter project, Low Flying Rocks, scrapes the NASA Near Earth Object database, and tweets when an object passes within 0.2 AU (30 million kilometres/18.6 million miles) of the Earth - something that apparently happens "a few times a week". [more inside]
Year: 2025. Mission: Save Moonbase Alpha after critical systems were damaged by a meteor strike. A free Steam-powered 3D-immersive game from NASA. Windows only.
As the internet works to decode the US Cyber Command logo, it is worth pondering the bizarre world of military patches and logos. The most awesomely bad has been selected by popular vote, but there is a serious reason behind that flippant patch. Then there are the strange and nerdy patches of classified projects [prev.] NASA has its own strange and awesome mission patches, but, as Space Review discovered, there are also secret patches for classified missions which give clues to their purpose. And then there was the military logo that was so outlandishly ominous it helped lead to the project's shutdown.
Free during the World Cup the IOP (Institute of Physics) has a collection of papers all about football (soccer). Also related is NASA's recent findings regarding the randomness of the new Adidas ball.
Last year, high school science teacher Ron Dantowitz of Brookline, Mass., played a clever trick on three of his best students. He asked them to plan a hypothetical mission to fly onboard a NASA DC-8 aircraft and observe a spacecraft disintegrate as it came screaming into Earth's atmosphere. For 6 months, they worked hard on their assignment, never suspecting the surprise Dantowitz had in store. On March 12th, he stunned them with the news: "The mission is real, and you're going along for the ride."
High above the earth, Astronaut Douglas H. Wheelock is tweeting from his new six month position on the International Space Station. His latest twitpics include the Southern Lights from space. Another photograph of this phenomenon is credited to the expedition. [more inside]
"The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity." Dr. Richard Fisher and other sun-gazing scientists recently discussed the upcoming peak in the 11-year sunspot cycle. Due to the ever-increasing humans' reliance on electrical systems, the storm could leave a multi-billion pound damage bill and "potentially devastating" problems for governments. Constant improvements in satellite designs have assisted in bracing for a solar superstorm, an effort that comes in part by studying the impacts records of activity from past peaks in solar storms. System limits are set based on significant solar storm-triggered events in the past, though the largest magnetic storm on record was before the modern understanding of solar events. The solar storm of 1859, also known as The Carrington Event, when "telegraphs ran on electric air," was experienced around the world. [more inside]
I take massive NASA images and make them easily viewable. Milky Way. Carina. To zoom, click on the pics. All Hubble Images Sorted by Resolution. Excellent Video Narrated by Morgan Freeman [clip from Cosmic Voyage]. [more inside]
Tom Waits and Kool Keith collaborated on a song called "Spacious Thoughts" in 2009. Here's the video. [more inside]
Barring the need for STS-335 and any potential extension to the program, today's 2:30 EST scheduled launch of OV-104 Atlantis on STS-132 (pdf) will be her 32nd and final trip to space. She's had a good run (gratuitous launch vid).
The Space Potty - the one question astronauts get asked most often: "How do you 'go' in space?" [via]
Forty-nine years ago, Alan Shepard literally got his 15 minutes of fame by becoming the second person and first American to go into space.
Star Trek nerd alert: Standard orbit, Mr. Sulu." Captain Kirk barks out NASA announces Dawn, an ion propulsion rocket to two asteroids, Vesta and Ceres.
On April 24, 1990, the Discovery shuttle launched the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit around Earth, where it's been for 20 years. This spring, NASA has been rolling out more pretty pictures, videos and even an IMAX movie in its honor. The Hubble has contributed to hundreds of studies about our universe. As we celebrate its legacy, let's reflect on a bit on its past and future. [more inside]
MOONWALK ONE - A surprisingly groovy look at the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in a full length documentary that contains a lot of rare and not often seen footage of the preparations and launch of the first manned mission to the moon. Warning: Also contains lots of theramins, trippy optical effects, faux bohemians and some really blowy narrative.
"First Light" for the Solar Dynamics Observatory - researchers unveiled "First Light" images from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, a space telescope designed to study the Sun.
Jerry Woodfill was an engineer with a mission control console at NASA when Apollo 13 became critically endangered by a blown oxygen tank. He shared his views on how the crew survived with Universe Today in a series of posts: 13 Things that Saved Apollo 13 written by Nancy Atkinson. [more inside]
Most North Americans slept through the morning of January 13, 2010 as near-Earth object (NEO) 2010 AL30 silently moved across the night sky. Most of the time small asteroids zip past Earth harmlessly. We may not meet the goal of detecting and tracking potentially hazardous near-Earth objects . (Previously)
Neil deGrasse Tyson : What NASA Means to America's Future. NdGT eloquently, passionately explains the essential importance that the nation have a strong education system driven by a national vision that excites children. He argues for the importance of NASA in capturing the imagination of American children, leading them to excel in the sciences — back in the day. SLYT. [more inside]
Compromise emerging for NASA's spaceflight future Since the announcement was made last month of the cancellation of Constellation (NASA's plan for returning to the Moon and Mars), the punditsphere has been ablaze with condemnation, support, and outright confusion over the future of American manned spaceflight. Keith Cowling, editor of the Nasawatch.com blog, has posted an interesting new development that if proven right, could prove to be a compromise between those wanting NASA to get out of manned spaceflight altogether and those seeking to keep the administration in the spaceflight business. [more inside]
Certainly you've read of the Space Shuttle's imminent retirement, but are you prepared for the secret robot "mini" shuttle, the X-37B? After a decade of checkered development under NASA, DARPA (with assistance from Scaled Composites' White Knight) and finally the U.S. Air Force, the first X-37B spaceplane, the Orbital Test Vehicle, is ready for an April 19th launch.
To promote mission awareness, NASA authorizes the creation of posters. Some may look familiar. Via Gizmodo.
Many are familiar with Operation Paperclip - the secret U.S. program that brought Nazi scientists to our shores in order to develop the American space program. However, the details surrounding the Nazi V-2 program has always been a little murky in the eyes of the American people - it turns out that more people were killed building V-2 rockets than from actual V-2 rocket attacks. A new photography exhibit called Dora and the V-2: Slave Labor in the Space Age aims to transform perceptions in one of the American communities most affected by the influx of Nazi scientists... [more inside]
Since late January of 2010, the International Space Station was able to access the Internet for personal use, leading to the first tweet from space. The previous tweets were e-mailed to the ground where support personnel posted them to the astronaut's Twitter account. Currently there are 17 active NASA astronauts and 6 internatual'nauts tweeting from on high. If their words aren't enough, they're also posting pictures, primarily from Soichi Noguchi (@Astro_Soichi) and José Hernández (@Astro_Jose, whose socio-political messages were covered previously). [more inside]
On February 1, a new 24-hour internet-only reality show was launched by the same folks who brought us Apollo 13. Live Feed. Main site. Catch the action (from a distance). How the "set" was built. Cast interview (video). Official press release.
Amateur video footage of the Challenger explosion previously unknown, has now been found and, of course, posted to YouTube. A retired man named Jack Moss was taping the launch from his front yard when the explosion occurred moments into the launch. The tape was relegated to his basement and forgotten, and Moss died late last year. His pastor remembered a conversation about the video and found it among other old Betamax videotapes from the same period. It is believed to be the only amateur footage of the event.
Return to the moon? Not likely. "President Barack Obama is essentially grounding efforts to return astronauts to the moon...".