Titan Dragonfly is Go!…. for Phase C

Artist’s rendition of NASA’s Dragonfly on the surface of Titan. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben)

The surface exploration of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, just got one step closer to reality as NASA’s much-anticipated Dragonfly mission recently received approval from the powers that be to advance to Phase C, which is designated as Final Design and Fabrication, according to NASA’s Systems Engineering Handbook. This comes after the Dragonfly team successfully completed all the requirements for Phase B in March 2023, also known as the Preliminary Design Review or Preliminary Design and Technology Completion in the NASA Systems Engineering Handbook.

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Supernovae Struck the Earth 3 Million and 7 Million Years Ago

X-ray image of the Tycho supernova, also known as SN 1572, located between 8,000 and 9,800 light-years from Earth. Tycho is an example of a recent supernova that was visible from Earth in 1572. (Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIKEN & GSFC/T. Sato et al; Optical: DSS)

A recent study examines how the Earth was hit by blasts from supernovae (plural form of supernova (SN)) that occurred 3 million years ago (Mya) and 7 Mya with the goal of ascertaining the distances of where these blasts originated. Using the live (not decaying) radioactive isotope 60-Fe, which is produced from supernovae, a team of researchers at the University of Illinois was able to determine the approximate astronomical distances to the blasts, which they refer to as Pliocene Supernova (SN Plio, 3 Mya) and the Miocene Supernova (SN Mio, 7 Mya).

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The Outer Space Treaty was Signed in 1967. Can it Handle the Future of Space Exploration?

Artist rendition of a future mining outpost on the Moon. (Credit: NASA/SAIC/Pat Rawlings)

In a recent study submitted to the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society for the 8th Interstellar Symposium special issue, which is due for publication sometime in 2024, Dr. Jacob Haqq-Misra, who is a senior research investigator and the Chief Operating Officer and co-founder at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, examines how future space exploration governing laws could evolve, either crewed or uncrewed and in the solar system or beyond. He views this study as an expansion of interplanetary governance models he previously discussed in his book, Sovereign Mars, to explore potential limits on space governance at interstellar distances.

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Artemis Accords Adds 25th, 26th, and 27th Signatory Countries

The current list of the 27 signatory countries for the Artemis Accords. (Credit: NASA)

NASA recently welcomed the newest signatories of the Artemis Accords as Spain, Ecuador, and India became the 25th, 26th, and 27th countries, respectively, to sign on to the historic agreement for cooperation and partnership for space exploration, specifically pertaining to NASA’s Artemis program.

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If You’re Going to Visit Venus, Why Not Include an Asteroid Flyby Too?

Radar image of Venus created by the Solar System Visualization project and the Magellan science team at the JPL Multimission Image Processing Laboratory. This is a single frame from a video released at the October 29, 1991, JPL news conference. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

A recent study submitted to Acta Astronautica examines the prospect of designing a Venus mission flight plan that would involve visiting a nearby asteroid after performing a gravity assist maneuver at Venus but prior to final contact with the planet. The study was conducted by Vladislav Zubko, who is a researcher and PhD Candidate at the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Science (RAS) and has experience studying potential flight plans to various planetary bodies throughout the solar system.

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A Third of Planets Orbiting Red Dwarf Stars Could be in the Habitable Zone

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a pair of researchers from the University of Florida (UF) examine orbital eccentricities for exoplanets orbiting red dwarf (M dwarf) stars and determined that one-third of them—which encompass hundreds of millions throughout the Milky Way—could exist within their star’s habitable zone (HZ), which is that approximate distance from their star where liquid water can exist on the surface. The researchers determined the remaining two-thirds of exoplanets orbiting red dwarfs are too hot for liquid water to exist on their surfaces due to tidal extremes, resulting in a sterilization of the planetary surface.

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TESS Reaches Fifth Anniversary of Extraordinary Mission, but its Work is Far from Over

Artist illustration of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) observing the heavens. (Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) mission recently reached its fifth anniversary of service to humanity as it continues to tirelessly scan the heavens for worlds beyond. Dubbed as an all-sky mission, TESS was launched on April 18, 2018, aboard a SpaceX Falcon rocket. During its five years in space, TESS’s four 24 degrees by 24 degrees field-of-view CCD cameras have successfully mapped greater than 93% of the cosmos.

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Watch a Dramatic Tornado Rise from the Surface of the Sun, Captured by Andrew McCarthy

A 140 megapixel image of the Sun with a tornado-like prominence in the upper right portion and the whisps of the solar corona. Data from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory and an image from Jason Guenzel of the 2017 total solar eclipse were combined to form this image. (Credit: Andrew McCarthy & Jason Guenzel)

Amateur astrophotography is becoming increasingly popular among the astronomy community, as advancements in telescope and camera technologies allow individuals from all walks of life to observe the heavens in mind-blowing detail, including our own Sun, albeit with the proper protective equipment. This was recently demonstrated by Andrew McCarthy (Twitter @AJamesMcCarthy), who owns and operates Cosmic Background Studios, and is originally from Northern California but currently resides in Florence, Arizona.

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The Moon is the Best Place to Transport Rocket Fuel

Artist depiction of future lunar astronauts. (Credit: NASA)

When astronauts return to the Moon in the next few years, the plan is to have them stay for good while establishing a permanent outpost on Earth’s nearest celestial neighbor. Like all space missions, a lunar outpost will require fuel for long-term sustainability, but would it be better to mine fuel on the Moon or get fuel resupply from the Earth? This is what a team of researchers led by Bocconi University in Italy hope to address as they addressed the best option in terms of deriving fuel from either the Earth or the Moon.

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Perseverance Sees Drifting Clouds on Mars

Animation showing a series of pre-sunrise images of drifting clouds in the Martian sky taken by NASA's Perseverance rover on March 18, 2023. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Perseverance rover mission provided a bluish pre-sunrise gift above Jezero Crater on March 18, 2022, aka Sol 738, or the 738th Martian day of the mission, with “sol” being the official timekeeping method for Mars missions since one Martian day is approximately 40 minutes longer than one Earth day. And, on this particular sol, the car-sized explorer used one of its navigation cameras (Navcam) to snap images of high-altitude clouds drifting in the Martian sky, which it shared on its officially Twitter page on March 23, 2023.

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