The United Launch Alliance Delta-IV Heavy rocket tasked with launching NASA’s Orion EFT-1 mission being hoisted vertical atop Space Launch Complex-37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on the morning of Oct. 1, 2014. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket tasked with launching NASA’s Orion EFT-1 mission being hoisted vertical atop Space Launch Complex-37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on the morning of Oct. 1, 2014. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

The march towards first launch of NASA’s next generation Orion crew vehicle is accelerating rapidly.

The world’s most powerful rocket – the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy – was moved to its Cape Canaveral launch pad overnight and raised at the pad today, Oct. 1, thereby setting in motion the final steps to prepare for blastoff of NASA’s new Orion capsule on its first test flight in just over two months. [click to continue…]

A colorful, wide view of the North America Nebula  (NGC 7000 or Caldwell 20) in Cygnus. This three-panel mosaic spanning an area  approximately 2.5 x 5.5 degrees, captured using QHY11/TAK E180 presented here in H-Alpha, Hubble Palette and RGB with H-Alpha. Credit and copyright: Terry Hancock.

A colorful, wide view of the North America Nebula (NGC 7000 or Caldwell 20) in Cygnus. This three-panel mosaic spanning an area approximately 2.5 x 5.5 degrees, captured using QHY11/TAK E180 presented here in H-Alpha, Hubble Palette and RGB with H-Alpha. Credit and copyright: Terry Hancock.

A perfect set of astrophotos for #WideAngleWednesday! Here are not one but three views of the North America Nebula taken by Terry Hancock. Terry said this is his widest view yet of this region. Also known as NGC 7000 or Caldwell 20, this is an emission nebula in the constellation Cygnus that resembles the shape of North America and The Gulf Of Mexico. It lies at a distance of approximately 1800 light years away from Earth.

Terry presents a “trilogy” of three different color processes, (see below). He took imagery in both July and September 2014 with a total exposure time of 13.9 hours from his Down Under Observatory in Fremont, Michigan.
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Phobos. From where did it arise or arrive? Is it dry or wet? Should we flyby or sample and return? Should it be Boots or Bots? (Photos: NASA, Illus.:T.Reyes)

From where did Phobos arise or arrive? The Inner or Outer Solar System? Is it dry or wet? Should we flyby or sample & return? Or should it be Boots or Bots? In the illustration, space probes (L-R) Phobos-Grunt 2, JPL/SAR, ARC PADME. Also, Stardust’s return capsule, Phobos above Mars, the Solar Nebula and the MRO HiRISE photo of Phobos. (Photos: NASA, Illustration:T.Reyes)

Ask any space enthusiast, and almost anyone will say humankind’s ultimate destination is Mars. But NASA is currently gearing up to go to an asteroid. While the space agency says its Asteroid Initiative will help in the eventual goal of putting people on Mars, what if instead of going to an asteroid, we went to Mars’ moon Phobos?

Three prominent planetary scientists have joined forces in a new paper in the Journal Planetary and Space Science to explain the case for a mission to the moons of Mars, particularly Phobos.

“Phobos occupies a unique position physically, scientifically, and programmatically on the road to exploration of the solar system,” say the scientists. In addition, the moons may possibly be a source of in situ resources that could support future human exploration in circum-Mars space or on the Martian surface. But a sample return mission first could provide details on the moons’ origins and makeup.

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Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo soars in a powered flight test on Sept. 5, 2013. Credit: MarsScientific.com and Clay Center Observatory

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo soars in a powered flight test on Sept. 5, 2013. Credit: MarsScientific.com and Clay Center Observatory

TORONTO, CANADA – There’s a big difference in thinking between governments and the private companies that participate in space. While entities such as NASA can work on understanding basic human health or exploring the universe for the sake of a greater understanding, companies have a limitation: they need to eventually make a profit.

This was brought up in a human spaceflight discussion at the International Astronautical Congress today (Oct. 1), which included participants from agencies and companies alike. Below are some concepts for how private companies in the space world today are making their money.

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OMG Interstellar Trailer 3

by Jason Major on October 1, 2014

This. Watch. Now.

Chris Nolan’s Interstellar, in theaters November 7. Visit the (also very cool) movie site here.