"Back on ISS, life is good," wrote NASA astronaut Steve Swanson on April 7, 2014 in the first Instagram from space. Swanson is wearing a T-shirt from the TV space show 'Firefly' that says "Shipping & Logistics: Everything's Shiny" around a smaller circle reading "Serenity: Est. 2459." Credit: NASA/Instagram

“Back on ISS, life is good,” wrote NASA astronaut Steve Swanson on April 7, 2014 in the first Instagram from space. Swanson is wearing a T-shirt from the TV space show ‘Firefly’ that says “Shipping & Logistics: Everything’s Shiny” around a smaller circle reading “Serenity: Est. 2459.” Credit: NASA/Instagram

And now, time for some thrilling heroics. NASA astronaut Steve Swanson sent out the first Instagram from space last week wearing none other than a Firefly T-shirt. There’s something to be said about a space-faring guy evoking images of Captain Mal doing the impossible in the plucky Serenity spaceship, isn’t there?

We’re happy the epicness did not break NASA’s Instagram feed, as Swanson has been sending out pictures regularly since then showing the view from orbit (he joked about wanting a vacation at one point) as well as another selfie. You can check out the magic below, and follow the rest on NASA’s Instagram feed. We’ve copied and pasted Swanson’s captions below each image.

[click to continue…]

Rosetta’s Philae Lander Snaps a Selfie

by Jason Major on April 15, 2014

Rosetta's solar panels as seen by Philae's CIVA imaging system on April 14, 2014. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

Rosetta’s solar panels as seen by Philae’s CIVA imaging system on April 14, 2014. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

Philae is awake… and taking pictures! This image, acquired last night with the lander’s CIVA (Comet nucleus Infrared and Visible Analyzer) instrument, shows the left and right solar panels of ESA’s well-traveled Rosetta spacecraft, upon which the 100-kilogram Philae is mounted.

Philae successfully emerged from hibernation on March 28 via a wake-up call from ESA.

After over a decade of traveling across the inner Solar System, Rosetta and Philae are now in the home stretch of their ultimate mission: to orbit and achieve a soft landing on comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It will be the first time either feat has ever been attempted by a spacecraft. Read more here.

Source: ESA Rosetta Blog

Photos by author.

Going, going… the phases of last night’s total lunar eclipse. Photos by author.

Did the Moon appear a little on crimson side to you last night? It’s not your imagination, but it was a fine textbook example of a total lunar eclipse. This was the first total lunar eclipse visible from the Earth since late 2011, and the first of four visible from the Americas over the next 18 months.   [click to continue…]

Two 3-D replicas of a glove worn by European Space Agency astronaut Hans Schlegel. The one on right is lifesize and the other at one-tenth scale. The models were created "using fused deposition modelling of thermoplastic", ESA stated, at a mechanical workshop at the Netherlands' European Space Research and Technology Centre. Credit: ESA-Anneke Le Floc'h

Two 3-D replicas of a glove worn by European Space Agency astronaut Hans Schlegel. The one on right is lifesize and the other at one-tenth scale. The models were created “using fused deposition modelling of thermoplastic”, ESA stated, at a mechanical workshop at the Netherlands’ European Space Research and Technology Centre. Credit: ESA-Anneke Le Floc’h

Star Trek replicators, here we come. The European Space Agency has released a list of how 3-D printing could change space exploration forever. And lest you think this type of printing is far in the future, images like those disembodied hands above show you it’s come a long way. Those are 3-D replicas of a glove worn by European Space Agency astronaut Hans Schlegal.

The applications range from the small — making lighter valves, for example — to ambitious projects such as constructing a moon base. Below are some ESA images showing uses for 3-D printing, and if they’ve missed some, be sure to let us know in the comments.

[click to continue…]

Let’s Put a Sailboat on Titan

by Michael Habib on April 15, 2014

An illustration showing how a sailboat mission to Titan might land and become operational. Copyright: Estevan Guzman for Universe Today.

An illustration showing how a sailboat mission to Titan might land and become operational. Copyright: Estevan Guzman for Universe Today.

The large moons orbiting the gas giants in our solar system have been getting increasing attention in recent years. Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is the only natural satellite known to house a thick atmosphere. It’s surface, revealed in part by the Cassini probe, is sculpted by lakes and rivers. There is interest in exploring Titan further, but this is tricky from orbit because seeing through the thick atmosphere is difficult. Flying on Titan has been discussed around the web (sometimes glibly), and this was even one of the subjects treated by the immensely popular comic, XKCD.

However, there remains the problem of powering propulsion. The power requirements for flight are quite minimal on Titan, so solar wings might work. But Titan also presents an alternative: sailing.
[click to continue…]