The Pinwheel Galaxy, also known as M101, is a spiral galaxy just 21 million light years away. It’s a popular galaxy for photographs because it’s oriented to us face-on. This means you can see the bright whorled spirals and dark cloud regions, even in amateur photographs. Since it’s relatively close and bright, you can get a good view of it, even with a small telescope. It also happens to have a supernova at the moment.Continue reading “There's a New Supernova in a Familiar Galaxy. You Can See it in a Small Telescope”
Robots in orbit are becoming even more popular. There are still many technical challenges ahead.
Robots will be one of the keys to the expanding in-space economy. As launch costs decrease, hopefully significantly when Starship and other massive lift systems come online, the most significant barrier to entry for the space economy will finally come down. So what happens then? Two acronyms have been popping up in the literature with increasing frequency – in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing (ISAM) and On-orbit servicing (OOS). Over a series of articles, we’ll look at some papers detailing what those acronyms mean and where they might be going shortly. First, we’ll examine how robots fit into the equation.Continue reading “Robots in orbit are becoming even more popular. There are still many technical challenges ahead.”
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NASA's Mars Helicopter Went Silent for Six Agonizing Days
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter on Mars has exceeded everyone’s expectations, recently completing its 51st flight when it was supposed to fly just a few times as a demonstration mission. But flights 50 and 51 almost didn’t happen.
In a recent blog post, Travis Brown, Chief Engineer for Ingenuity shared how the team lost contact with the tiny rotorcraft for six excruciating days.Continue reading “NASA's Mars Helicopter Went Silent for Six Agonizing Days”
A Third of Planets Orbiting Red Dwarf Stars Could be in the Habitable Zone
A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a pair of researchers from the University of Florida (UF) examine orbital eccentricities for exoplanets orbiting red dwarf (M dwarf) stars and determined that one-third of them—which encompass hundreds of millions throughout the Milky Way—could exist within their star’s habitable zone (HZ), which is that approximate distance from their star where liquid water can exist on the surface. The researchers determined the remaining two-thirds of exoplanets orbiting red dwarfs are too hot for liquid water to exist on their surfaces due to tidal extremes, resulting in a sterilization of the planetary surface.Continue reading “A Third of Planets Orbiting Red Dwarf Stars Could be in the Habitable Zone”
This is How NASA Wanted to Rescue Space Shuttle Astronauts
For most of us, this would be a nightmare.
Imagine being curled up inside a 90 cm (36 inch) fabric sphere with a small window and a small air tank while dangling from the Canadarm. As your tiny sphere shifts, you’d see Earth out your tiny window, then the Space Shuttle, damaged by some accident or other that caused you to need rescuing, then Earth again. Panic would set in pretty quickly.
But that’s where Space Shuttle astronauts in an emergency could’ve found themselves if NASA’s Personal Rescue Enclosure (PRE) had been put into practice.Continue reading “This is How NASA Wanted to Rescue Space Shuttle Astronauts”
Stratolaunch Buys Virgin Orbit's Rocket-Launching 747
With Virgin Orbit going through bankruptcy, other launch providers are purchasing various parts of the business. This week we learned that Stratolaunch’s bid to buy Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft has been approved by the U.S Bankruptcy Court, enabling Stratolaunch to use the 747 to carry its Talon-A hypersonic vehicles, ideally beginning operation by 2024.Continue reading “Stratolaunch Buys Virgin Orbit's Rocket-Launching 747”
HAKUTO-R’s Software Got Confused at the Last Minute, Causing it to Crash into the Moon
On April 26, 2023, people around the world watched as the HAKUTO-R lander made its final approach for a landing on the Moon. It had been “on the road” since December 11, 2022, and completed eight Mission 1 milestones. Numbers 9 and 10 would have been landing and establishing a base on the Moon. As we all know, it reached the lunar surface, but not the way the ispace team expected. NASA images confirmed its final resting place.Continue reading “HAKUTO-R’s Software Got Confused at the Last Minute, Causing it to Crash into the Moon”
How Much Damage Will Lunar Landings Do to Lunar Orbiters?
Multiple missions are destined for the Moon in this decade. These include robotic and crewed missions conducted by space agencies, commercial space entities, and non-profit organizations. The risks and hazards of going to the Moon are well-documented, thanks to Apollo Program and the six crewed missions it sent to the lunar surface between 1969 and 1972. But unlike the “footprints and flags” of yesterday, the plan for the coming decade is to create a “sustained program of lunar exploration and development.”
This means establishing a greater presence on the Moon, building infrastructure (like habitats, power systems, and landing pads), and missions regularly coming and going. Given the low-gravity environment on the Moon, spacecraft kick up a lot of lunar regolith (aka., “Moon dust”) during takeoff and landing. This regolith is electrostatically-charged, very abrasive, and wreaks havoc on machines and equipment. In a recent study, NASA researchers Philip T. Metzger and James G. Mantovani considered how much damage all this regolith could inflict on orbiting spacecraft.Continue reading “How Much Damage Will Lunar Landings Do to Lunar Orbiters?”
A New Place to Search for Habitable Planets: “The Soot Line.”
The habitable zone is the region around a star where planets can maintain liquid water on their surface. It’s axiomatic that planets with liquid water are the best places to look for life, and astronomers focus their search on that zone. As far as we can tell, no water equals no life.
But new research suggests another delineation in solar systems that could influence habitability: The Soot Line.Continue reading “A New Place to Search for Habitable Planets: “The Soot Line.””