That’s no Asteroid, it’s a Rocket Booster

Back in September, astronomers using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System 1 (Pan-STARRS1) noticed an object in a distant orbit around Earth. Initially, the object (designed 2020 SO) was thought that be a near-Earth Asteroid (NEA). But based on the curious nature of it’s and the way solar radiation appeared to be pushing it off course, NASA scientists theorized that 2020 SO might be a spent rocket booster.

This was the tentative conclusion reached by staffers at the NASA Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA JPL. Specifically, they theorized that the object was the spent upper stage booster of the Centaur rocket that launched the Surveyor 2 spacecraft towards the Moon in 1966. This theory has since been confirmed thanks to new information provided by CNEOS and the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF).

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Lunar Dust is Still One of The Biggest Challenges Facing Moon Exploration

In the coming years, astronauts will be returning to the Moon for the first time since the closing of the Apollo Era. Beyond that, NASA and other space agencies plan to establish the necessary infrastructure to maintain a human presence there. This will include the Artemis Gateway in orbit (formerly the Lunar Gateway) and bases on the surface, like NASA’s Artemis Base Camp and the ESA’s International Moon Village.

This presents a number of challenges. The Moon is an airless body, it experiences extreme variations in temperature, and its surface is exposed to far more radiation than we experience here on Earth. On top of that, there’s the lunar dust (aka. regolith), a fine powder that sticks to everything. To address this particular problem, a team of ESA-led researchers is developing materials that will provide better protection for lunar explorers.

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What the Astronauts Saw as They Orbited the Moon During Apollo 17

This view always gets me *right there.* But this new version really gets me.

This is what Apollo 17 astronauts saw in December of 1972 as they came around the farside of the Moon: the blue and white crescent Earth rising above the stark lunar horizon. And now image editing guru Kevin Gill has sharpened the image, giving it more texture, color and contrast. I can imagine this sharp, spectacular view must be close to what the astronauts saw with their own eyes.  

“There I was, and there you are, the Earth – dynamic, overwhelming…” said Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan.  

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Remembering Don Arabian, the ‘Mad Genius’ Behind NASA’s Apollo Engineering Team

One of the truly unsung heroes of the Apollo program has passed away at age 95. Donald D. Arabian, Chief of the Apollo Test Division, headed the Mission Evaluation Room (MER), which was responsible for solving in-flight problems during the Apollo missions to the Moon.  

His nickname was “Mad Don,” and anyone who had the privilege of meeting him or working with him described Arabian as “one of a kind,” “colorful,” and “completely and totally unforgettable.” But in the book “Apollo: Race to the Moon” authors Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox designated Arabian as one of four people responsible for the success of the Apollo Program. 

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AI Upscales Apollo Lunar Footage to 60 FPS

As exciting and thrilling as it is to watch all the historic footage from the Apollo Moon landings, you have to admit, the quality is sometimes not all that great. Even though NASA has worked on restoring and enhancing some of the most popular Apollo footage, some of it is still grainy or blurry — which is indicative of the video technology available in the 1960s.

But now, new developments in artificial intelligence have come to the rescue, providing viewers a nearly brand new experience in watching historic Apollo video.

A photo and film restoration specialist, who goes by the name of DutchSteamMachine, has worked some AI magic to enhance original Apollo film, creating strikingly clear and vivid video clips and images.

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Even More Things That Saved Apollo 13: The Nail-biting Re-entry Sequence

50 years ago today, on April 17, 1970, the crew of Apollo 13 came home. Safely. Successfully.

The world breathed a collective sigh of relief as they watched NASA turn a disaster into one of the most dramatic happy-endings ever.

The flight of Apollo 13 was unlike any other Apollo mission, and the final hours of the flight – preparing for and implementing the reentry to Earth – was unlike any other, as well.

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Even More Things That Saved Apollo 13: Charging the Batteries

Following the explosion of an oxygen tank in Apollo 13’s Service Module on April 13, 1970, approximately 56 hours into the mission, the situation was bleak. With the Command Module (CM) without any power, the Lunar Module (LM) was activated as a life boat to sustain the crew. The task ahead – to save the spacecraft and the crew, and get them home again — would require an incredible amount of innovation by both the Apollo 13 astronauts and the engineers back on Earth.

The explosion caused the loss of the main source for oxygen, water, and most importantly, electrical power for the CM. With only 15 minutes of power left in the CM, astronaut Jack Swigert powered down the CM while Jim Lovell and Fred Haise got the LM up and running.

For engineers on the ground, one of the biggest concerns was maintaining enough electrical power in the LM and then creating enough power in the CM to power it back up again for reentry to Earth.

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Even More Things That Saved Apollo 13, part 1: The Barbecue Roll

Apollo 13 was supposed to be the third mission to land humans on the Moon. But on the night of April 13th, 1970, an oxygen tank in Apollo 13’s Service Module exploded. And so began the most perilous but eventually triumphant situation ever encountered in human spaceflight.

The explosion crippled the Apollo 13 Command Module and endangered the lives of astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert. During the four days that followed, thousands of people back on Earth worked around the clock to ensure the astronauts’ safe return.

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The Apollo 1 Fire: Excerpt from “Eight Years to the Moon”

Editor’s note: Today marks the 53rd anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire that killed three astronauts during a routine test on the launchpad. The test was a dress rehearsal for the Apollo 1 crew — Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. The goal was to check out the command module, NASA’s first spacecraft that would take astronauts to the Moon.

Following is an excerpt about the fire from the book “Eight Years to the Moon: The History of the Apollo Missions” by Nancy Atkinson. The book tells the unique personal stories of over 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make the Apollo program possible, and is filled with stories of the dedication and perseverance it took to overcome the challenges, hurdles and conflicts of doing things that had never been done before. It provides a glimpse into the lives of some of the hundreds of thousands of people who made it possible to land humans on the Moon. While many of the stories in the book are fun and heart-warming, this excerpt shares the incredibly heart-breaking event that shocked the country and halted the Apollo program as NASA scrambled to figure out what went wrong.

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