In the summer of 2017, the company Rocket Lab officially tossed its hat into the commercial aerospace (aka. NewSpace) ring with the first test flights of their two-stage Electron Rocket. Dedicated to providing cost-effective launch services for the small satellite market, the company began conducting commercial launches from their complexes in New Zealand and California using the lightweight Electron.
Looking to cut the costs associated with individual launches further, Rocket Lab has decided to pursue reusability as well. In early March, before the isolation orders were issued, the company achieved a major milestone when it conducted a successful mid-air recovery of the test stage of an Electron Rocket – which involved a helicopter catching the test stage after its parachute deployed.
Buzz Aldrin – the second man to walk on the Moon – is recovering nicely today in a New Zealand hospital after an emergency medical evacuation cut short his record setting Antarctic expedition as the oldest man to reach the South Pole – which Team Buzz lightheartly noted would make him “insufferable”!
“He’s recovering well in NZ [New Zealand],” Team Buzz said in an official statement about his evacuation from the South Pole.
Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, who followed Neil Armstrong in descending to the lunar surface in 1969 on America’s first Moon landing mission, had to be suddenly flown out of the Admunsen-Scott Science Station late last week per doctors orders after suffering from shortness of breath and lung congestion during his all too brief foray to the bottom of the world.
He was flown to a hospital in Christchurch, New Zealand for emergency medical treatment on Dec. 1.
Upon learning from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that Aldrin “now holds the record as the oldest person to reach the South Pole at the age of 86,” his Mission Director Christina Korp jokingly said: ‘He’ll be insufferable now.”
“Buzz Aldrin is resting in hospital in Christchurch, New Zealand. He still has some congestion in his lungs so has been advised not to take the long flight home to the States and to rest in New Zealand until it clears up,” Team Buzz said in an official statement on Dec. 3.
Buzz had been at the South Pole for only a few hours when he took ill, apparently from low oxygen levels and symptoms of altitude sickness.
“I’m extremely grateful to the National Science Foundation (NSF) for their swift response and help in evacuating me from the Admunsen-Scott Science Station to McMurdo Station and on to New Zealand. I had been having a great time with the group at White Desert’s camp before we ventured further south. I really enjoyed the time I spent talking with the Science Station’s staff too,” said Aldrin from his hospital room in a statement.
Prior to the planned Antarctic journey, his doctors had cleared him to take the long trip – which he views as “the capstone of his personal exploration achievements”.
Buzz’s goal in visiting the South Pole was to see “what life could be like on Mars” – which he has been avidly advocating as the next goal for a daring human spaceflight journey to deep space.
“His primary interest in coming to Antarctica was to experience and study conditions akin to Mars that are more similar there than any other place on earth,” Team Buzz elaborated.
He had hoped to speak more to the resident scientists about their research but it was all cut short by his sudden illness.
“I started to feel a bit short of breath so the staff decided to check my vitals. After some examination they noticed congestion in my lungs and that my oxygen levels were low which indicated symptoms of altitude sickness. This prompted them to get me out on the next flight to McMurdo and once I was at sea level I began to feel much better. I didn’t get as much time to spend with the scientists as I would have liked to discuss the research they’re doing in relation to Mars. My visit was cut short and I had to leave after a couple of hours. I really enjoyed my short time in Antarctica and seeing what life could be like on Mars,” Aldrin explained.
Buzz also thanked everyone who sent him well wishes.
“Finally, thanks to everyone from around the world for their well wishes and support. I’m being very well looked after in Christchurch. I’m looking forward to getting home soon to spend Christmas with my family and to continue my quest for Cycling Pathways and a permanent settlement on Mars. You ain’t seen nothing yet!”, concluded Aldrin.
Destination Mars is a holographic exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex in Florida. Be sure to catch it soon because the limited time run end on New Year’s Day 2017.
The new ‘Destination Mars’ limited engagement exhibit magically transports you to the surface of the Red Planet via Microsoft HoloLens technology.
It literally allows you to ‘Walk on Mars’ using real imagery taken by NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover and explore the alien terrain, just like real life scientists on a geology research expedition – with Buzz Aldrin as your guide.
Here’s my Q & A with moonwalker Buzz Aldrin speaking to Universe Today at Destination Mars:
Video Caption: Buzz Aldrin at ‘Destination Mars’ Grand Opening at KSCVC. Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin talks to Universe Today/Ken Kremer during Q&A at ‘Destination Mars’ Holographic Exhibit Grand Opening ceremony at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC) in Florida on 9/18/16. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Learn more about ULA Delta 4 launch on Dec 7, GOES-R weather satellite, Heroes and Legends at KSCVC, OSIRIS-REx, InSight Mars lander, ULA, SpaceX and Orbital ATK missions, Juno at Jupiter, SpaceX AMOS-6 & CRS-9 rocket launch, ISS, ULA Atlas and Delta rockets, Orbital ATK Cygnus, Boeing, Space Taxis, Mars rovers, Orion, SLS, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:
Dec 5-7: “ULA Delta 4 Dec 7 launch, GOES-R weather satellite launch, OSIRIS-Rex, SpaceX and Orbital ATK missions to the ISS, Juno at Jupiter, ULA Delta 4 Heavy spy satellite, SLS, Orion, Commercial crew, Curiosity explores Mars, Pluto and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings
Photographer Manoj Kesavan has been working on this timelapse since mid-2013 and the results are stunning and spellbinding. ‘Leave Home’ was shot from many locations in Palmerston North, New Zealand in 2013 then continued in 2014 from Taupo and Auckland. Early in the timelapse you’ll see daytime views of the New Zealand landscape but midway, the night views kick in. Hang on while watching some of the spinning Milky Way shots, and the wave scenes might leave you hypnotized! All in all, this is a gorgeous look at the land, sea and skies of New Zealand.
The images were shot with Canon 20D, Canon 7D & 60D with various Canon & Sigma Lenses and batch processed with Lightroom 5. Motion control was achieved by Dynamic Perception stage one dolly & Emotimo TB3 Black.
There are some moments in an astrophotographer’s life that you just have to step back and say thanks for the view. “Thanks clear sky,” said Zhang Hong when he posted this image on Google+.
This almost looks like a shower of stars raining down. Just gorgeous.
Here are the specs on his equipment: Nikon D800, Aperture: f/2.8, Focal length: 14.mm, exposure time:25.9 seconds, ISO-4000, -0.7 exposure compensation, spot metering, no flash, equatorial mount.
Want to get your astrophoto featured on Universe Today? Join our Flickr group or send us your images by email (this means you’re giving us permission to post them). Please explain what’s in the picture, when you took it, the equipment you used, etc.
Ok, maybe not the sky itself… but the clouds. According to recent research by climate scientists in New Zealand, global cloud heights have dropped.
Researchers at The University of Auckland have reported a decreasing trend in average global cloud heights from 2000 to 2010, based on data gathered by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) on NASA’s Terra satellite. The change over the ten-year span was 30 to 40 meters (about 100 to 130 feet), and was mostly due to fewer clouds at higher altitudes.
It’s suspected that this may be indicative of some sort of atmospheric cooling mechanism in play that could help counteract global warming.
“This is the first time we have been able to accurately measure changes in global cloud height and, while the record is too short to be definitive, it provides just a hint that something quite important might be going on,” said lead researcher Professor Roger Davies.
A steady reduction in cloud heights could help the planet radiate heat into space, thus serving as a negative feedback in the global warming process. The exact cause of the drop in cloud altitude is not yet known, but it could reasonably be resulting from a change in circulation patterns that otherwise form high-altitude clouds.
Cloud heights are just one of the many factors that affect climate, and until now have not been able to be measured globally over a long span of time.
“Clouds are one of the biggest uncertainties in our ability to predict future climate,” said Davies. “Cloud height is extremely difficult to model and therefore hasn’t been considered in models of future climate. For the first time we have been able to accurately measure the height of clouds on a global basis, and the challenge now will be to incorporate that information into climate models. It will provide a check on how well the models are doing, and may ultimately lead to better ones.”
While Terra data showed yearly variations in global cloud heights, the most extreme caused by El Niño and La Niña events in the Pacific, the overall trend for the years measured was a decrease.
Continuing research will be needed to determine future trends and how they may impact warming.
“If cloud heights come back up in the next ten years we would conclude that they are not slowing climate change,” Davies said. “But if they keep coming down it will be very significant.”
The team’s study was recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Terra is a multi-national, multi-disciplinary mission involving partnerships with the aerospace agencies of Canada and Japan. An important part of NASA’s Science Mission, Terra is helping scientists around the world better understand and protect our home planet.
Today was a proud day in the history of New Zealand, marking the first ever home-grown rocket launch from the island. The private space company Rocket Lab, Ltd launched their Atea-1 rocket to a height of over 100 km at 2:28pm (NZST). The launch took place at Great Mercury Island, just off the coast of the North Island, and is a first for the company as well as the country.
Rocket Lab, Ltd was formed three years ago with the hopes of developing a rocket that would make space more accessible. The Atea-1 rocket has a small payload capacity, 2kg (4.4lbs). This first test of the rocket had a payload that recorded how well the engine burned during the 22-second firing, as well as a GPS locator for recovery. As of this writing, the 1st stage booster section was recovered, but the company is still looking for the payload stage.
The target of the launch was 50km (31miles) northeast of Great Mercury Island, and the team hopes to recover the second stage within the next two days so as to analyze the measurements taken on how well the test flight went.
The launch was initially scheduled for 7:10am, but a number of technical issues delayed the flight until the afternoon. A section of aerocoupler, which connects the fuel line to the rocket, froze up, which stuck the rocket in place on its pad. A helicopter was dispatched to Whitianga on the North Island to pick up another coupler from an engineering supplier.
After almost scrubbing the launch three times, emptying the rocket and refueling it, the team was ready to go at 2:30. The 6meter (20 foot) long rocket was launched above the Karman line, 100 km (62 miles) above the Earth, making this an official flight into space.
Atea is the Maori word for space, and this specific rocket was named Manu Karere – meaning ‘bird messenger’ – by the local Thames iwi. Rocket Lab founder, Mark Stevens (who legally changed his name to Mark Rocket about seven years ago) told the Waikato Times, “The last six months have been a terrific amount of work. The tech team has put in a massive effort. It’s not trivial sending something into space. This is a huge technological leap for New Zealand.”
The video interview of Mark Stevens and Peter Beck embedded below is courtesy of the New Zealand Herald.
Rocket Lab has produced a number of products for the aerospace industry, including separation systems, rocket fuel and software. The company is completely privately funded.
This isn’t the first rocket to be launched from the island. That distinction belongs to a rocket that was imported in 1963 by the Cantrbury University physics department to conduct upper atmospheric research in collaboration with the Royal New Zealand Air Force. That rocket only went to 75km (46 miles), making Atea-1 the first ever rocket to be launched into space, and adding New Zealand and Rocket Lab to the ever-lengthening list of space-faring enterprises.