The Moon has Alps Too

If the Winter Olympics were held on the Moon, the best spot would be on the Lunar Alps. This is a region of the Moon similar in size and shape to Europe’s Alps. Of course, with 1/6th the gravity, skiers could do some amazing tricks. Unlike Europe’s Alps, which formed over millions of years, the lunar Alps were formed in a relative instant 4 billion years ago when a gigantic asteroid struck the Moon, and carved out Plato crater.

Stardust Placed Into Hibernation

Having successfully delivered its fragile payload of comet and interstellar dust samples, Stardust is a spaceship without a purpose. This week, NASA controllers sent a series of commands that put the ship into a hibernation mode. With every system turned off, except it solar arrays and receive antenna, Stardust should be able to remain in good health for years. NASA is considering future missions they could give the spacecraft.

New Details About Return to the Moon

NASA has unveiled more details about its upcoming series of missions to return humans to the Moon as early as 2018. The new crew vehicle will look very similar to the old Apollo module but it will be three times larger, allowing four astronauts to travel to the Moon at a time. Each ship can be reused 10 times, and NASA hopes to get as many as 2 launches a year, with astronauts spending 4-7 days on the surface. Eventually, once a lunar outpost is built at the southern pole, astronauts will be able to live on the Moon for 6 months at a time.

Discovery and ISS Will Be Visible in the Southeast US

Skywatchers in the Southeastern United States will have an opportunity to watch the International Space Station and the space shuttle Discovery fly overhead on Saturday morning at 5:50 am CDT.. Discovery will have undocked from the station three hours previously, so the two objects will be separated visually by about the width of the Moon. As a special bonus, the two spacecraft will pass close to the planet Mars as well.

Old NASA Equipment Will Be Visible on the Moon

During the Apollo era of spaceflight, many US spacecraft and vehicles were left on the Moon when the astronauts returned home. For the first time in more than 30 years, we’ll get a chance to see them again when NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter arrives at the Moon in 2008. It will be equipped with a camera capable of resolving the surface of the Moon down to half a metre (1.6 feet). Some of the larger structures on the Moon are 9 metres (30 feet) across, so they should be easy to spot by the orbiter.

Audio: Interview with Story Musgrave

How many times have I been to space? Well, I lost count at, oh, none. So I, and nearly every other human being on Earth can’t compare with Story Musgrave, a legendary NASA astronaut who flew on the space shuttle six times, including leading the team that fixed the Hubble Space Telescope’s vision in 1993. He’s the subject of a recent biography called Story: the Way of Water, and has a new CD called Cosmic Fireflies, which sets his space inspired poetry to music. Story speaks to me from his home in Florida.

Electric Shield for Astronauts on the Moon

Now that NASA has committed itself to returning humans to the Moon, they’re looking to overcome one of the major risks to anyone staying in space for a lengthy amount of time: radiation. In deep space, and on the Moon, astronauts would be bombarded by radiation from the Sun, and cosmic rays from space. NASA is considering an electromagnetic shield of highly charged inflatable spheres. These could be erected above a potential lunar base to attract the radiation and channel it safely away.

Don’t Breathe the Moon Dust

One of the big hazards for astronauts living on the Moon is going to be the dust; it gets everywhere, and is very dangerous to breathe. Lunar dust is similar to silica dust on Earth, which can cause silicosis, a disease that damages the lungs. Martian dust could be even more dangerous because it is a strong oxidizer – it could actually burn your skin if it touched. Future missions will need to control lunar and martian dust from getting inside spacecraft and habitats, and NASA is working on potential solutions.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse, April 24

There’s going to be a partial lunar eclipse on Sunday, April 24; unfortunately, the Moon will only pass through the faint penumbral shadow, and only dim slightly. Most observers would be hard-pressed to tell the difference. The eclipse gets going at 0955 UT (5:55 am EDT) and ends about 2 hours later. Observers in the Americas should be able to see the eclipse, with the best view for folks in the West.