Friday, October 18, 2019

🚀 All-Female Spacewalk! InSight is Digging Again, Helical Spacedrive, 42,000 Starlink Satellites? And More...


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The First All-Female Spacewalk is a Success!

At the time I'm finishing this newsletter, Jessica Meir and Christina Koch just wrapped up the first all-female spacewalk in history. Of course, this should have happened earlier this year, but there weren't enough properly-sized spacesuits on board the International Space Station. It looks like everything is going great up there in orbit.

This week is memorable for spacewalks in another way too. For a sadder reason. The first person to ever perform this feat was cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, stepping out of his space capsule in 1965, and demonstrating that humans can really work in the harsh environment of space. Sadly, Leonov passed away this week, at the age of 85.

Congratulations to Meir and Koch! I'm sure Leonov would be pleased to see how routine spacewalking has become.


Fraser Cain
Universe Today

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AstroClipper: Plans for a Two-Stage, Fully Reusable Spaceplane

Even as the first rockets were launched into space decades ago, aerospace knew it was a wasteful process. Rocket stages, motors, and complex equipment crashed into the ocean or burned up in the Earth's atmosphere.

Could spaceplanes bring the costs down? Flying to orbit with a combination of jet engines and rockets and then safely re-enter the Earth's atmosphere again. Single-stage to orbit spacecraft and spaceplanes have always seemed out of reach, and actually not that practical.

But what about a two-stage, fully reusable spaceplane? Exodus Space Corporation has been secretly working on this concept for a decade now, and what they're proposing is pretty revolutionary.

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It Looks Like it's Working! NASA InSight's Mole is Making Progress Again Thanks to the Arm Scoop Hack

NASA's InSight Lander has been trying to take the temperature of Mars, to figure out how much its interior has cooled down. But the temperature probe it was using got stuck just a little down in the regolith. Engineers thought it might be a rock, but a hack to pin the probe against the side of the borehole seems to be working and the probe is making progress going deeper again.


Robotic Spiders to Explore the Moon? Yes, Please!

When Astrobiotic's Peregrine Lander flies to the Moon in 2021, it's going to be carrying a unique 4-legged spider bot on board. Built by SpaceBit, this Walking Rover will be able to shuffle around on the surface of the Moon, helping to explore the terrain around the landing site. It could even be used to explore lava tubes and other features that might be difficult to visit with a wheeled rover.


NASA Engineer Has A Great Idea for a High-Speed Spacedrive. Too Bad it Violates the Laws of Physics

NASA engineer David Burns recently posted an idea for a space drive that could carry a spacecraft to relativistic speeds. Unfortunately, there's also no way it could work, because it violates the laws of physics as we understand them. In theory, it would take advantage of the fact that particles can be more massive when you accelerate them to nearly the speed of light in a particle accelerator.


Planet Sizes Matter for Habitability Too.

We've talked quite a bit about the habitable zone around stars, a region where liquid water can be present. But it also looks like the mass and size of the planet is important too. Larger planets like Earth, Venus and even Mars are okay, but once the world gets smaller, like the size of Ganymede or the Moon, it doesn't have enough gravity to hold onto its water.


SpaceX Files a Request to Launch Another 30,000 Satellites for Starlink, on Top of the 12,000 They're Already Planning to Launch

Remember when SpaceX announced they were going to launch 12,000 satellites as part of the Starlink constellation? How quaint. Earlier this month, the company announced that they want to loft an additional 30,000 satellites into a variety of orbits, bringing the total to 42,000. Obviously this has serious implications for ground-based astronomy, trying to peer through clouds of satellites.


Space Is Hard

Just in case you weren't sure, NASA wants to remind you that space is a hostile, unforgiving environment. Space is hard. Here's a short video with cool graphics, thrilling music and super slo-mo shots of astronauts suiting up for the final frontier. They'd like you to know they've never been more ready to meet the unknown, and they will succeed.


An Army of Tiny Robots Could Assemble Huge Structures in Space

Whenever you launch structures into space, you're limited by the size of the rocket fairing, and the challenging origami it takes to unfold a satellite. But what if you could just launch all the raw materials and then let robots construct it part by part as big as you need? Researchers from MIT demonstrated how an army of tiny robots could manufacture space-based structures of unlimited size.


Here's the Picture We've Been Waiting for. Hubble's Photo of Interstellar Comet 2I/Borisov

Now that we know that another interstellar object is making its way through the Solar System, astronomers have been scrambling to point every single observatory on Earth at the object. And now the mighty Hubble Space Telescope has joined in, capturing this image of Comet 2I/Borisov. One of the biggest surprises is how similar this comet is our own Solar System's comets.


Virgin Galactic and Under Armour Reveal Spacewear Clothing Line for Suborbital Trips

NASA wasn't the only one revealing their spacesuits this week, Virgin Galactic made their reveal as well. If you take a sub-orbital hop in one of their SpaceShipTwo rockets, you'll be sporting this stylish blue Under Armor flightsuit and zipper boots as modeled by Richard Branson and his friends. The next time he puts this on, said Branson, he'll be on his way to the edge of space.


There's the Curiosity Rover, on the Move, Seen from Space

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is currently orbiting the Red Planet, capturing the world in incredible detail. And every now and then, the spacecraft takes a moment to check in on the various landers and rovers down on the surface of Mars. In this photograph you can see the Curiosity Rover crawling along the base of Gale Crater, searching for past evidence of water on Mars.


Good News, Astronomers Found Planets Similar to Earth. Bad News, it's Actually the Rubble of Dead Planets, Orbiting Dead Stars

Astronomers just found compelling evidence that there are other planets out there with very similar chemical signatures to Earth. Unfortunately, they found these clues in the smashed up debris of planets orbiting a bunch of white dwarf stars - remnants of stars like our Sun which ran out of fuel and died. But back in their day, these planets would have had rock and metal in simlar quantities to Earth.


NASA's New Lunar Spacesuit is Going to be a Lot More Comfortable for Astronauts

It's been almost 50 years since the last astronaut left the Moon during the Apollo missions. And now that astronauts are going to be returning with the Artemis program, they're going to need spacesuits packed with modern technology and all the hard lessons learned from last time people flew to the Moon. This week NASA unveiled their new spacesuits using astronauts as models.

Other Interesting Space Stuff

Amazing Astrophotography on @universetoday


Globular Cluster 47 Tucanae

This is the globular cluster 47 Tucanae (NGC 104), the second brightest in the night sky after the Omega Cluster. Globular clusters are some of the oldest objects astronomers know of, forming shortly after the Universe itself. It was captured by @torbensimm_astrophotography

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