Alan Shepard’s Daughter Will be Flying on the Next New Shepard Flight

Jeff Bezos has hit a particular stride lately with Blue Origin, the commercial space company he founded in 2000 in the hopes of “building a road to space.” For the sake of fostering interest in the space tourism industry, testing their reusable launch vehicle, and growing his company’s brand, he’s conducting recurring launches with the New Shepard featuring high-profile clientele. At the same time, he aims to make each new launch a record-setting event.

On Nov. 23rd, Blue Origin announced the names of the six people who would fly aboard the New Shepard launch vehicle on its nineteenth flight (NS-19), scheduled for Dec. 9th. Among them is Laura Shepard Churchley, the eldest daughter of astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American astronaut to go to space, the fifth man to walk on the Moon, and for whom the New Shepard launch vehicle is named.

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NASA Plans to Retire the Space Station in 2030 and Replace it with Commercially Owned “Destinations” in Low Earth Orbit

While it may seem like the International Space Station is just now fully hitting its stride as far as scientific output and the ability for crew rotations from several different spacecraft, the ISS has been operating with astronauts on board for over 21 years. Knowing the modules and entire physical structure cannot endure the long-term effects of the harsh space environment forever, NASA’s Office of the Inspector General has issued a new report outlining the agency’s plans to keep the space station in orbit until 2030, and to replace it with one or more commercial space stations.

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An Upcoming Asteroid Mission Will be Able to Peer 100 Meters Under the Surface

Engineers only get one shot at making a spacecraft work as intended.  Or at least they only get one shot in space.  In the preparation leading up to that final, climactic moment, there are typically thousands of hours of tests run on numerous systems and subsystems.  If all goes well, it bodes well for the mission’s overall success, but if problems arise, it’s much easier to address them on the ground than while a spacecraft is already orbiting.  A model of a new spacecraft known as Juventas just completed a significant testing milestone – passing testing in a room known as an anechoic chamber.  

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Our Guide to the Only Total Solar Eclipse of 2021

During this weekend’s total solar eclipse, the shadow of the Moon graces the Earth one last time for the year.

Saturday’s total solar eclipse literally spans the ends of the Earth.

The final eclipse for 2021 and the only total solar eclipse of the year occurs on Saturday, December 4th, as the Moon’s shadow sweeps across a remote segment of the Antarctic continent.

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NASA is Building a Nuclear Reactor to Power Lunar and Martian Exploration!

Over the next fifteen years, multiple space agencies and their commercial partners intend to mount crewed missions to the Moon and Mars. In addition to placing “footprints and flags” on these celestial bodies, there are plans to establish the infrastructure to allow for a long-term human presence. To meet these mission requirements and ensure astronaut safety, several technologies are currently being researched and developed.

At their core, these technologies are all about achieving self-sufficiency in terms of resources, materials, and energy. To ensure that these missions have all the energy they need to conduct operations, NASA is developing a Fission Surface Power (FSP) system that will provide a safe, efficient, and reliable electricity supply. In conjunction with solar cells, batteries, and fuel cells, this technology will allow for long-term missions to the Moon and Mars in the near future.

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InSight Peers Deep Below the Surface on Mars

The InSight lander has been on Mars, gathering data for a thousand days now, working to give us a better understanding of the planet’s interior. It’s at Elysium Planitia, the second largest volcanic region on Mars. A newly-published paper based on seismic data from the lander shows something unexpected underground: a layer of sediment sandwiched between layers of lava flows.

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Astronauts Took A Fly-around of the International Space Station. Here are Their Stunning Pictures

When astronauts left the International Space Station in early November to return home on the Crew Dragon Endeavour, they took the opportunity to do a fly-around of the ISS and take photos. NASA just released the new images, and they are a stunning look at both the orbiting outpost and our home planet.

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NASA Simulation Shows What Happens When Stars Get Too Close to Black Holes

What happens to a star when it strays too close to a monster black hole? Astronomers have wondered why some stars are ripped apart, while others manage to survive a close encounter with a lurking black hole, only a little worse for wear.

To figure out the dynamics of such an event, scientists built a supercomputer simulation and tested it out on eight different types of stars. The stars were sent towards a virtual black hole, 1 million times the mass of the Sun.

What they found was surprising.

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The Parker Solar Probe is getting pelted by hypervelocity dust. Could they damage spacecraft?

There’s a pretty significant disadvantage to going really fast – if you get hit with anything, even if it is small, it can hurt.  So when the fastest artificial object ever – the Parker Solar Probe – gets hit by grains of dust that are a fraction the size of a human hair, they still do damage.  The question is how much damage, and could we potentially learn anything from how exactly that damage happens?  According to new research from scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder (UCB), the answer to the second question is yes, in fact, we can.

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The Decadal Survey is out! What new Missions and Telescopes are in the Works?

It’s that time again.  Once every ten years, the American astronomy community joins forces through the auspices of the National Academies to produce one of the most important and influential reports in their discipline – the decadal survey.  This report has been the impetus for some of the great observational instruments of our time, including Spitzer, the Large Millimeter Array, and Chandra. Upcoming heavy-hitting observatories, such as Nancy Grace Roman and Vera C. Rubin, also spawned from suggestions made in the Decadal Survey.  In short, if you want to get a grandiose space telescope funded, your best bet is to have it supported by the National Academies in the form of the Decadal Survey.  Now a new one is out – so what does it back for the upcoming decade and beyond?

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