Artemis 1 Goes Back to the Launch pad, Getting Ready for its August 29th Blastoff

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop the mobile launcher as it moves up the ramp at Launch Pad 39B, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft now sits on the launchpad, ready for liftoff on a journey around the Moon. This is the first time since 1972 that NASA has a human-rated spacecraft is ready to go beyond Earth orbit.

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More Rocket Launches Could Damage the Ozone Layer

There are few things in this world that brings feelings of awe and wonder more than a rocket launch. Watching a literal tower of steel slowly lift off from the ground with unspeakable power reminds us of what humanity can achieve despite our flaws, disagreements, and differences, and for the briefest of moments these magnificent spectacles are capable of bringing us all together regardless of race, creed, and religion.

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JWST Is On Its Way!

Screenshot from NASA TV showing the Webb telescope after release from the rocket stage. Credit: NASA.

It’s really happening. After all the years of delays, reschedulings, budget shortfalls, and even more delays, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launched on December 25 and is now successfully on its way to is destination at the second LaGrange point (L2), about 1.5 million km (1 million miles) from Earth.

If you celebrate Christmas and are astronomically inclined, the launch feels like a true Christmas miracle.

The footage of JWST’s separation from the Ariane 5 rocket, as seen from a camera on the rocket’s second stage is just absolutely stunning.

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Webb Telescope Officially Cleared for Launch on December 25

Illustration of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. Credits: NASA
Illustration of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. Credits: NASA

UPDATE: Shortly after publication of this article, Arianespace announced the launch for JWST has been delayed until December 25:

“Due to adverse weather conditions at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, the flight #VA256 to launch the James Webb Space Telescope –initially scheduled for December 24– is being postponed,” Arianespace said via Twitter. “Tomorrow evening, local time, another weather forecast will be issued in order to confirm the date of December 25. The #Ariane5 launch vehicle and Webb are in stable and safe conditions in the Final Assembly Building.”

Earlier today, NASA and ESA announced that the James Webb Space Telescope has cleared one of the final hurdles before launch. The telescope passed the final launch readiness review, meaning that all the hardware and software for the spacecraft and the Ariane 5 rocket are ready for flight. This officially greenlights the liftoff.

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Pencil December 18th (tentatively) into your calendar. That’s when James Webb probably launches

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in Dec. 2021, will be capable of measuring the spectrum of the atmospheres of Earthlike exoplanets orbiting small stars. Credit: NASA, Northrop Grumman

You may have heard this one before, but encouraging news comes from NASA, ESA, and Arianespace today:  they are now targeting December 18, 2021 as the new launch date for the oft-delayed James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

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Chinese Asteroid Mining Robot Due to Launch in November

Mining asteroids might be necessary for humanity to expand into the Solar System. A new paper says spacecraft could work in pairs to capture Near Earth Asteroids. Credit: ESA.

Does it seem like science is catching up with science fiction? Sometimes it does. Especially when there’s an announcement like this one.

A Chinese company says that they’ll be launching an asteroid-mining robot by November.

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Perseverance Rover Rumbles Off the Launchpad to Mars

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover onboard launches from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Thursday, July 30, 2020, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Perseverance rover is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the Red Planet. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is now successfully on its journey to Mars, launching from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 7:50 am EDT (1150 GMT). Just minutes before the Atlas 5 rocket rumbled off the launchpad, a 2.9 magnitude earthquake rumbled out in California, giving a minor shake to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, the Control Center for the rover.

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James Webb is Fully Stowed Into its Launch Configuration

The James Webb Space Telescope inside a cleanroom at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Credit: NASA/JSC

We’re inching closer and closer to the James Webb Space Telescope’s (JWST) launch date of March 30th, 2021, (or maybe July 2021.) We never thought we’d get this close, with only a year to go before we send this powerful space telescope on its way. Now the telescope has been put in its launch configuration.

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Bullseye: Amazing SpaceX Images Highlight Perfect Falcon 9 Landing

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket just before landing on the drone ship ‘Just Read the Instructions’ in the Pacific Ocean, on January 14, 2017 following the launch of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit. Credit: SpaceX.

SpaceX was able to celebrate a successful return to flight this week with a picture-perfect launch of the Falcon 9 rocket on January 14, 2017 that successfully delivered a fleet of ten advanced Iridium NEXT mobile voice and data relay satellites to orbit. But the icing on the cake was the dead-center landing and recovery of the Falcon 9 booster on their drone barge (named “Just Read The Instructions”) in the Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of California.

SpaceX released some images from the landing that are absolutely stunning, like this one, below:

A stunning view of the Falcon 9 rocket just before landing on a barge in the Pacific Ocean, on January 14, 2017 following the launch of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit. Credit: SpaceX.

The Falcon 9 launched from Space Launch Complex 4E on Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and the main goal of the mission was to deploy the payload of the first ten Iridium Next communication satellites to low Earth orbit. Iridium plans to eventually have a fleet of 81 such satellites.

It was the first launch for the commercial company since the September 1, 2016 explosion on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida during a routine launchpad test. The explosion destroyed the Falcon 9 rocket and the payload of the Amos-6 communications satellite, which had an estimated value of $200 million. The explosion was traced back to a failure of a high-pressure helium vessel inside the Falcon 9’s second-stage liquid-oxygen tank.

Enjoy more images and video from the landing below:

Another view of the SpaceX Falcon 9 booster after landing on a barge in the Pacific Ocean on January 14, 2017. Credit: SpaceX.

The Falcon 9 booster sitting successfully on the barge after landing. Credit: SpaceX.

Here’s the full webcast of both the launch and landing:

You can see all of SpaceX’s latest images on their Flickr stream.

NASA’s Favorite Photos of 2016

The Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 7, 2016 bringing a new crew to the International Space Station. Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

There are a group of unsung heroes at NASA, the people who travel the world to capture key events in our exploration of space. They share their images with all of us, but most of the time, it’s not just the pictures of launches, landings, and crucial mission events that they capture. They also show us behind-the-scenes events that otherwise might go unnoticed, and they also capture the true personalities of the people behind the missions and events.

From exciting beginnings of rocket launches and rocket tests to the sad losses of space exploration icons, these photographers are there take these images that will forever remind us of the glories and perils of spaceflight and the joys and sadness of human life.

NASA photographers Bill Ingalls, Aubrey Gemignani, Joel Kowsky, Connie Moore, and Gwen Pitman chose some of their favorites images from 2016, and below are just a few. As Ingalls told us, “These are the favorite images created by our HQ photo team, not from the entire agency. There are many more talented photographers at the NASA centers producing some amazing work as well.”

In this 30 second exposure taken with a circular fish-eye lens, a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower as a photographer wipes moisture from the camera lenses Friday, August 12, 2016 in Spruce Knob, West Virginia. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The team from the Juno mission celebrate after they received confirmation from the spacecraft that it had successfully completed the engine burn and entered orbit of Jupiter on July 4, 2016 in mission control of the Space Flight Operations Facility at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. Juno will orbit the planet for 20 months to collect data on the planetary core, map the magnetic field, and measure the amount of water and ammonia in the atmosphere. Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft lifts off on from Space Launch Complex 41 on Sept. 8, 2016 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. OSIRIS-REx will be the first U.S. mission to sample an asteroid, retrieve at least two ounces of surface material and return it to Earth for study. The asteroid, Bennu, may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of water and organic molecules found on Earth. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Annie Glenn, Widow of former astronaut and Senator John Glenn, pays her respects to her late husband as he lies in repose, under a United States Marine honor guard, in the Rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Piers Sellers, former astronaut and deputy director of the Sciences and Exploration Directorate at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, speaks at NASA’s Earth Day event, Friday, April 22, 2016 at Union Station in Washington, DC. Sadly, Sellers passed away on Dec. 23, after battling cancer. Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

The Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 48 crew members NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, Russian cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin, and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Following his year in space on board the International Space Station, astronaut Scott Kelly spoke during an event at the United States Capitol Visitor Center, on May 25, 2016, in Washington. Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The second and final qualification motor (QM-2) test for the Space Launch System’s booster is seen, Tuesday, June 28, 2016, at Orbital ATK Propulsion Systems test facilities in Promontory, Utah. During the Space Launch System flight the boosters will provide more than 75 percent of the thrust needed to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth, the first step on NASA’s Journey to Mars. Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson gets her hair cut on Nov. 14, 2016 at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, a few days before launching to spend about six months on the International Space Station. Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Click on each of the images to see larger versions on Flickr. You can see the entire selection of these favorite photos from 2016 on the NASA HQ Flickr page.