Impacts From Interstellar Objects Should Leave Very Distinct Craters

In a recent study submitted to Earth and Planetary Astrophysics, a team of researchers from Yale University investigated how to identify impact craters that may have been created by Interstellar Objects (ISOs). This study is intriguing as the examination of ISOs has gained notable interest throughout the scientific community since the discoveries and subsequent research of ‘Oumuamua and Comet 2I/Borisov in 2017 and 2019, respectively. In their paper, the Yale researchers discussed how the volume of impact melt within fixed-diameter craters could be a possible pathway for recognizing ISO craters, as higher velocity impacts produce greater volumes of impact melt.

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Masten Space is Building a Lunar Lander for NASA. Also, They Just Filed for Bankruptcy

Artist's rendering of the Masten XL-1 lander. Credit: Masten Space Systems

If you’re a fan of the commercial space industry (aka. NewSpace), then the name Masten Space Systems is sure to ring a bell. For years, this California-based aerospace company has been developing delivery systems to accommodate payloads to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. This included Xoie, the lander concept that won the $1 million Northrop Grumman Lunar X-Prize in 2009, their Xombie and Xodiac reusable terrestrial landers, and the in-Flight Alumina Spray Technique (FAST) that would allow lunar landers to create their own landing pads.

But perhaps their biggest feat was the Xelene Lunar Lander (XL-1) that they developed in partnership with the NASA Lunar CATALYST program. This lander was one of several robotic systems enlisted by NASA to deliver cargo to the Moon in support of the Artemis Program. This included the Masten-1 mission, which was scheduled to land a payload Moon’s southern polar region in 2023. The company was scheduled to make a second delivery (Masten-2) by 2024, one year before the first Artemis astronauts arrived. But according to a statement issued on July 28th, the company has filed for Chapter 11 and is bankrupt!

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NASA’s Space Launch System Gets Tentative Launch Date of August 29th

NASA has announced tentative placeholder launch dates for its beast of a rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), on its maiden flight to deep space. While work still needs to be accomplished to ensure its launch, the tentative dates are currently August 29th, September 2nd, and September 5th. While NASA stressed these are not set dates, the announcement nonetheless puts SLS closer than ever to flight.

The maiden launch of the most powerful rocket ever built comes after years of budget increases and delays. Funding for SLS was approximately $1.5 billion in 2011 but has increased almost every year until it hit $2.5 billion in 2021. This came after Congress mandated SLS “operational capability…not later than December 31, 2016”, but has faced countless delays since then due to audits and poor management.

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NASA Says It’s Satisfied With Rehearsal for SLS Moon Rocket Launch

SLS and Orion at launch pad
A full moon looms over NASA's Space Launch System and its Orion capsule at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39B. (NASA Photo / Ben Smegelsky)

NASA says it’s finished with having to do full-scale dress rehearsals for the first liftoff of its moon-bound Space Launch System rocket. But it’s not finished with having to make fixes.

“At this point we’ve determined that we’ve successfully completed the evaluations and the work that we intended to complete for the dress rehearsal,” Thomas Whitmeyer, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for common exploration systems development, told reporters today.

NASA’s assessment came after a dress rehearsal that reached its climax on June 20 with the loading of the 322-foot-tall rocket’s supercooled propellant tanks. The rehearsal, which followed some less-than-fully-successful trial runs in April, marked a milestone for launch preparations because it was the first time that the team at Kennedy Space Center in Florida had fully loaded all of the tanks and proceeded into the terminal launch countdown.

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The Moon Could Have Gathered Some of its Water from the Earth’s Atmosphere

Our Moon is a fascinating world that has captivated us since time immemorial. Long before the first telescope was invented, ancient humans used the Moon as a calendar in the sky, with evidence that lunar timekeeping was around as early as 25,000, 30,000, and even 35,000 years before the present. Long before humanity had written language, lived in organized cities, and worshipped structured religions, the Moon was one of humanity’s first timepieces. It wasn’t until the telescope was invented that our Moon became an object of scientific curiosity, with the sketches by Galileo Galilei giving us a new perspective on our nearest celestial neighbor. As science advanced, so did our understanding of the Moon. While the Apollo missions were successful in teaching us about the geology of the Moon, it wasn’t until 2009 when the LCROSS impact probe onboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter deliberately crashed into a dark crater on the Moon’s south pole and detected 155 kilograms of water as it flew through the ejecta plume before ultimately crashing into the lunar surface.

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Artemis 1 Probably won't Launch Until August

The Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the right-hand center aft booster segment for Artemis I is stacked on the mobile launcher for the Space Launch System (SLS) on Jan. 7, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

On March 17th, the Artemis I mission rolled out of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VLB) and was transferred to Launch Complex 39B at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This was the first time that a fully-stacked Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft were brought to the launchpad in preparation for a “wet dress rehearsal.” To mark the occasion, NASA released a video of the event that featured a new song by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder (“Invincible”).

Unfortunately, technical issues forced ground controllers to scrub the dress rehearsal repeatedly and return the Artemis I to the VLB on April 26th. This was followed by reports that these issues were addressed and that Artemis I rocket would return to LC 39B by early- to mid-June. Meanwhile, an official NASA statement (issued on Thursday, May 8th) says that the official launch of the mission is not likely to take place until August at the earliest.

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Astronauts are Practicing Landing at the Moon's South Pole

The European Space Agency (ESA) is learning how to touch down safely at the South Pole of the Moon, without ever leaving Earth. Actual Moon landings seem to be on the horizon in the next decade via the Artemis program, and astronauts are going to have to learn to handle the unique challenges of landing in the Moon’s polar environment. With low angle sunlight and deep, permanently shadowed craters, the Moon’s South Pole poses difficulties no Apollo mission ever faced. To get hands-on experience with this environment without risking human life, ESA is putting astronauts through their paces on high-tech simulators.

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NASA Will be Testing SLS Over the Weekend

The Space Launch System (SLS) has just one more hurdle to clear before this summer’s historic launch. This is known as the Wet Dress Rehearsal, where the fully-stacked SLS and Orion spacecraft will conduct a series of operations at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This test follows the arrival of the SLS to Launch Complex 39B after making its big rollout on March 17th from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VLB).

The Wet Dress Rehearsal will run from Friday, April 1st, through Sunday, April 3rd, and will see the Artemis I launch team load propellant into the rocket’s tanks, conduct a full launch countdown, demonstrate the ability to recycle the countdown clock, and also drain propellants to give them an opportunity to practice the timelines and procedures they will use for launch. The weekend-long event will be live-streamed via the Kennedy Newsroom YouTube channel.

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Now That is a Big Rocket. Space Launch System Rolls out to the Launch pad for a Series of Tests

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen illuminated by spotlights atop a mobile launcher at Launch Complex 39B, Friday, March 18, 2022, after being rolled out to the launch pad for the first time at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Under the full Moon, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket rolled out to the launchpad for the first time. The journey began at the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, with the gigantic stack of the mega rocket arriving at Launch Pad 39B in preparation for a series of final checkouts before its Artemis I test flight.

The four-mile trip for SLS and the Orion spacecraft, on top of the crawler-transporter took 10 hours and 28 minutes, and the 3.5-million-pound rocket and spacecraft arrived at the pad at 4:15 a.m. on March 18.

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NASA is Letting People Fly Their Name Around the Moon With Artemis 1

The Artemis program will send the "first woman and next man" to the Moon by 2024. Credit: NASA

Here’s your chance to participate in NASA’s return to the Moon with the Artemis program!

NASA is inviting people to submit their names to be included on a flash drive that will be sent along with Artemis I, an uncrewed test flight that kicks off the space agency’s plans to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon.

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