How iPhone 14 will connect to satellites. Why SLS didn’t launch and when it might. Growing rice in space. And a new incredible image from James Webb. All this and more space news in this week’s episode of Space Bites.
As always, a handy video version of the most important space and astronomy news of the week is here. If you prefer news being videoed at you, this is for you.
Amazing Tarantula nebula by JWST
I think this one is my favorite of all the pictures taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. You’re looking at the Tarantula Nebula, a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, located about 161,000 light-years away. Because it’s an infrared instrument, Webb can peer through the gas and dust that obscure newly forming stars, revealing thousands of stars never seen before. The original image is a monster, measuring 14,000 x 8,000 pixels across. You can load it up and zoom in and out, looking at fascinating details and even the occasional background galaxy.
Another SLS Delay but Hopes for a September Launch
NASA’s Space Launch System should have blasted off on August 31st, 2022, but a hydrogen fuel leak scrubbed the mission. And then it was scrubbed again on September 3rd. So when will it fly? NASA’s next launch window is on September 23rd, but they have a deadline. The batteries for its flight termination system will need to be swapped out in the next few weeks, which means a trip back to the Vehicle Assembly Building. NASA has asked for an extension to the certification of the FTS, so it doesn’t need to roll back; otherwise, it won’t fly until mid-October.
iPhone 14 Will Have Satellite Connection
This week Apple announced their new iPhone 14 range of smartphones. This isn’t the kind of story we’d typically cover, but there was one space-related aspect to the story. The iPhone 14’s Emergency SOS mode will send messages through the Globalstar satellite network, meaning they can request help almost everywhere on Earth. Under ideal conditions, you should be able to send a SOS message in less than 15 seconds.
China Grows Rice in Space
Rice is one of the world’s staple crops, and now we know it’ll grow in space too. Astronauts on board China’s Tiangong successfully grew two rice varieties in the Wentian space laboratory. Their experiment started in July with a regular variety and a dwarf variety of rice. The tall variety grew 29 cm, and the dwarf variety grew 5 cm, which matches the amount of growth they’d reach on Earth. It’s not just about growing food in space; scientists will be studying any genetic mutations from being in microgravity and exposed to radiation.
Green Sand on Mars
Jezero Crater was chosen as the landing site for the Perseverance Rover because it’s a region on Mars that was wet for a long time. The bottom of the ancient crater was a lake, with inflowing and outflowing rivers, with large areas of sedimentary rock. Perseverance also found surprising regions of volcanic rock on the crater’s sides. The stone is made of olivine; ancient lava flows formed in the presence of water vapor and other gasses. This shows that the rock at the time was wetter than geologists expected.
Rocket Lab Successfully Tests an Engine Returned from Space
RocketLab made headlines in May when they successfully caught the first-stage booster from an Electron rocket with a helicopter. It wasn’t a great catch, and the helicopter was forced to drop the rocket again. RocketLab fished the rocket out of the ocean, cleaned up the engine, and successfully fired it again, completing the total duration of a flight to orbit. This brings Rocketlab one step closer to reusing their first-stage booster rockets and developing the advanced technology that will lead to full two-stage reusability with their upcoming Neutron rocket.
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