Friday, July 12, 2019

🚀 Shakeups at NASA, LightSail 2 is Going Strong!, It's Saturn Season, A New Martian Dust Storm, and More...


It's Been 50 Years

Hi, Vasiliy.

We're closing in on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. How time flies. 

Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, sending Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on their mission to bring humans to the surface of the Moon. They landed on July 20th, so just a little over a week from now will be the 50th anniversary.

Needless to say, there are books, TV documentaries and all kinds of special events going on around the world to celebrate this amazing accomplishment. Here's a big list of events from NASA.


Fraser Cain
Universe Today

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Q&A 91: Are Space Telescopes A Waste Of Money? And More...


In this week's QA, I answer why space telescopes aren't a waste of taxpayer resources, if ground-based space telescopes will become obsolete, and whether it makes sense to crash phobos into Mars.

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A Jarful of Titan Could Teach Us A Lot About Life There, and Here On Earth

Now that NASA has approved the Dragonfly mission to Titan, scientists are starting to speculate on what kinds of science could be done on this exotic moon of Saturn. One team of researchers is trying to recreate the conditions of Titan in a jar, simulating the mix of hydrocarbons and organic molecules on the surface.


The ESA's SpaceBok Robot Will Hop Its Way Around Low-Gravity Worlds

This adorable little robot could provide a new method of exploring other worlds; by hopping around. It's called SpaceBok, and it's being built by a group of students in Europe. In the low gravity of the Moon, Mars and asteroids, this 4-legged robot could cover a lot of ground, hopping like an antelope here on Earth.


Is NASA Sacrificing Sending Astronauts to Mars in Order to Get to the Moon Sooner?

Now that NASA is charging ahead to send humans back to the Moon by 2024, every other program related to human space exploration is under the magnifying glass. One of the big ones is the Deep Space Gateway, which would serve as a waypoint towards a landing on the Moon. This would also support missions to Mars. Will Gateway get cancelled, and make it harder to go to Mars in favor of the Moon?


Virgin Orbit Tests Dropping a Rocket from its Carrier Aircraft. It Smashed Into the Ground, As Planned

In addition to the rise in reusable rockets, other companies are working out ways to launch rockets from airplanes inexpensively. One of these is Virgin Orbit. In their most recent test, the company dropped a dummy rocket from their 747 carrier aircraft. The rocket crashed into the ground, as planned, demonstrating that the carrier aircraft can deploy successfully. In the future, it'll be a real rocket.


Our Guide to Saturn Opposition Season 2019

It's Saturn season once again. Time to view this amazing planet in your telescope and maybe even take a few pictures of it. David Dickinson has written up a comprehensive guide on when and where you can see Saturn this summer as it gets higher and brighter. It actually reached Opposition on July 9th, but it's still going to look great all summer.



LightSail 2 Mission is Going Strong and Sending Mission Info Home!

The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 mission was launched on a Falcon Heavy rocket last month and I'm happy to report that the spacecraft is doing well, and sending data back home. This was the third time that the society tried to launch a solar sail, and this time it worked!


Mars' North Pole is Doing the Dust Storms Thing Again

We all remember that NASA's Opportunity rover was silenced by a global dust storm on Mars. Now, it looks like there's another big storm brewing up on Mars. NASA missions have traced swirling storms blowing around the Martian northern pole. This is how they start, increasing in size, and possibly even encircling the entire globe.


Can Life Jump From a Passing Star?

Mars Society President Robert Zubrin wrote a new science paper last week, proposing a way that life can spread from star to star, as they randomly encounter each other through the Milky Way. According to Zubrin, as the stars get closer to each other, they can pass through each other's Oort Clouds, which could contain hibernating bacteria and other organic molecules.


Skywatcher and Satellite Tracker Photographs US Air Force's Secret Space Plane in Orbit!

The X-37B is a total mystery. It's a reusable spaceplane launched by the Air Force to, uh, test... stuff? We honestly have no idea. But it's up there, and since it's orbiting overhead, Earth based astronomers can take pictures of it. This photo by satellite hunter Ralf Vandebergh seems to show the X-37B's bays open. I'm assuming it's testing out different materials in the vacuum and temperature extremes of space.


Can We Use Special Sails To Bring Old Satellites Back Down To Earth?

That space junk problem is continuing to grow, especially with the decreasing costs of launch thanks to SpaceX. It's expected that 2,600 more satellites will go up in the next 5 years alone. Engineers are proposing that all new satellites be equipped with a special drag sail that'll bring it back down to Earth after its mission ends, decreasing the amount of dead satellites up there.


NASA has Figured Out How to Extend the Lives of the Voyagers Even Longer

NASA's Voyager spacecraft were launched in 1977, and it's amazing just how long they've been continuing to send data home. They flew past Jupiter, Saturn, (Voyager 2 went past Uranus and Neptune) and they mapped out the Sun's interaction with interstellar space. Now NASA has a few more tricks up its sleeve to keep these missions going for years to come as their power fades.



There Should Be More Iron In Space. Why Can't We See It?

Massive stars die when fusion stops in their core and they detonate as supernovae. They can fuse elements up the periodic table until they get to iron. But iron doesn't release any energy when it's fused together. In this situation, fusion in the core halts, and the star implodes in on itself. We should see more iron out there in space, but we don't. Why not?

Other Interesting Space Stuff

Amazing Astrophotography on @universetoday

Here's a place on my bucket list, Trolltunga in Norway. If you look carefully, you can see some people lying out on this tongue of rock that extends out over this beautiful fjord. Congratulations to @rmerzlyakov on the photo.

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