missions

The View From LightSail 2

Crowdfunded spacecraft LightSail 2 snaps amazing photos ahead of solar sail deployment: https://techcrunch.com/2019/07/17/crowdfunded-spacecraft-lightsail-2-snaps-amazing-photos-ahead-of-solar-sail-deployment/.

LightSail 2’s development was funded in part via a successful crowdfunding campaign run by the Bill Nye-led Planetary Society. Its goal is to test a spacecraft’s ability to fly powered only by the force of photons from the Sun striking a solar sail constructed of Mylar. This method of space-based transportation is extremely slow to get started, but thanks to the inertia-free medium of outer space, it could be an extremely energy-efficient way for research craft to travel long distances.

It launched on June 25 as part of the shared payload of SpaceX’s most recent Falcon Heavy launch.

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Originally posted on Twitter.

To the Moon and Beyond

Everything you ever wanted to know about Artemis, the lunar gateway and other lunar plans - and then some: https://www.bbc.co.uk/…/e…/nkzysaP3pB/to-the-moon-and-beyond.

I do feel like the article minimizes the near-certain role SpaceX and/or Blue Origin rockets and modules are going to play, in favor of presenting the official NASA line (Orion, SLS). But otherwise it's an informative, wide-ranging article (without getting into the nitty-gritty technical details).

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Originally posted on Facebook and Twitter.

New Lease on Life for the Voyagers

Voyagers 1 and 2 have the distinction of being in space for 42 years and still operating. And even though they’re 18 billion km (11 billion miles) from the Sun, they’re still valuable scientifically. But they’re running out of energy, and NASA has been working on how to stretch their remaining power for as long as possible.

https://www.universetoday.com/142802/nasa-has-figured-out-how-to-extend-the-lives-of-the-voyagers-even-longer/

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Originally posted on Twitter.

Dragonfly is Headed to Titan

NASA has announced its next big "New Frontiers" mission: DRAGONFLY, a nuclear-powered drone/rotorcraft lander, will visit Titan, the only moon in the solar system with a dense atmosphere rich in nitrogen and carbon (and one of the coolest stellar bodies to boot), to search for the molecules of alien life.

Dragonfly will launch in 2026 and arrive at Titan in 2034.

Much more at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/new-nasa-mission-will-fly-titans-frigid-skies-to-search-for-lifes-beginnings/

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Originally posted on Facebook and Twitter (additional tweets: here and here.

Tumultuous Clouds of Jupiter

This stunning image of Jupiter's stormy northern hemisphere was captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft as it performed a close pass of the gas giant planet. Some bright-white clouds can be seen popping up to high altitudes on the right side of Jupiter's disk.

Juno took the four images used to produce this color-enhanced view on May 29, 2019, as the spacecraft performed its 20th science pass of Jupiter. At the time the images were taken, the spacecraft was between 11,600 miles (18,600 kilometers) and 5,400 miles (8,600 kilometers) above Jupiter's cloud tops.

https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/tumultuous-clouds-of-jupiter/

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Initially posted on Twitter.

2 Earth-mass Planets Orbit Teegarden's Star a Mere 12.5 Light-years Away

Astronomers have found two Earth-sized and *potentially Earth-like* planets orbiting a star just 12.5 light years away. The planets were found using an instrument called CARMENES, which stands for Calar Alto high-Resolution search for M dwarfs with Exoearths with Near-infrared and optical Échelle Spectrographs). That's a mouthful, but it means an extremely sensitive detector mounted on a telescope at the Calar Alto observatory in Spain that looks for alien worlds like Earth orbiting very cool red dwarfs.

http://edit.syfy.com/syfywire/two-earth-sized-planets-found-in-a-nearby-stars-habitable-zone

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Originally posted on Twitter.

Stunning Close-Up of Asteroid Bennu

NASA's OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Takes Stunning Photo of Asteroid Bennu From Just 0.4 Miles Away. This image of asteroid Bennu was captured on Jun. 13, 2019, shortly after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft executed its second orbital insertion maneuver. From the spacecraft’s vantage point in orbit, half of Bennu is sunlit and half is in shadow. At this distance, details as small as 1.6 ft (0.5 m) across can be resolved in the center of the image.

https://gizmodo.com/nasas-osiris-rex-spacecraft-takes-stunning-photo-of-ast-1835601275

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Originally posted on Twitter.

Asteroid Selfie

Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft grabs epic close-up just 30 feet above asteroid Ryugu: https://www.cnet.com/news/japans-hayabusa2-spacecraft-snaps-close-up-just-30-feet-above-asteroid/

Hayabusa2 has been hanging out orbiting Ryugu for almost a year now, doing science, shooting cannonballs at it, snapping pics and, soon, snagging a material sample.

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Originally posted on Twitter.

Mars 2020 Rover Has A Date With Jezero Crater

This is where the Mars 2020 Rover is heading. From this picture, I think you can guess why.

Jezero Crater is an ancient lake that formed inside an impact crater. Detailed study of the features of the lake led scientists to conclude that the lake is ancient and did not experience times when water went down. Due to its long lifespan as a lake, it’s possible that life may have developed in the lake. It’s possible, though not necessarily likely, that preserved signs of life are waiting to be discovered at Jezero Crater.

https://www.universetoday.com/142357/this-is-where-mars-2020-rover-is-heading-from-this-picture-i-think-you-can-guess-why/

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Originally posted on Twitter.

The Next Space Race

In 2019, on the brink of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the competition that will rocket humanity into the cosmos is between two passionate and brilliant multi-billionaires: Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.

This blog outlines each of their capabilities, as well as their near-term and long-term vision for the final frontier: https://singularityhub.com/2019/05/24/the-next-space-race-bezos-vs-musk/.

The article includes a lot of insights into the personalities at play, their origins, and the details of their respective visions.

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Originally posted on Twitter.

Boulders on Bennu

An abundance of boulders litters the surface of asteroid 101955 Bennu in this dramatic close-up from the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Taken on March 28 from a distance of just 3.4 kilometers (2.1 miles) the field of view is about 50 meters across while the light colored boulder at top right is 4.8 meters tall. https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190524.html

Incredible to think about, isn’t it?

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Originally posted on Twitter.

The Moon Is In Fact A Harsh Mistress

The Israeli Beresheet lunar lander encountered engine trouble during the final minute of its descent, and the craft wasn't able to slow down enough, resulting in a crash landing. 😔

Space is hard, guys. And the moon is a MFing harsh mistress.

Below is the last image Beresheet beamed back before its crash landing. So beautiful! 

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Originally posted on Facebook.

Event Horizon

Here you go, space nerds: the first ever image of the event horizon of a black hole! The supermassive black hole at the center of galaxy M87 is 54 million light-years from earth and has a mass of 6.5 billion suns.

The close-up image is from the Event Horizon Telescope, the wide-field view from the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Early analysis suggests the observations are consistent with Einstein's Theory of General Relativity (some were hoping they would conflict, because having to redo all the theories is kind of exciting).

Download a high-res version of the image here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lightsinthedark/47579266551/

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Originally posted on Facebook.

A Busy Week in the Stars

It's a busy week for our accelerating journey into the stars, so keep one eye on the news - or this page, because you know I'll be posting. 😎

Wednesday at 9am EST, scientists are expected to reveal the first ever direct imaging of the event horizon of a black hole 😯, as part of the results of the Event Horizon Telescope (actually 10 radio telescopes on 4 continents). It's a surprise whether the image and data will relate to Sag A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, or the one in the M87 galaxy. You can watch the press conference here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7WUmAgTKJg.

Wednesday evening (EST), SpaceX will conduct its second launch of its massive Falcon Heavy rocket - then attempt to land the central core and both side boosters at 3 separate locations. 😲 You can watch the launch and landings here: https://www.spacex.com/webcast.

Thursday afternoon (EST), the Israeli privately funded Beresheet lunar lander will attempt to - you guessed it. Land on the moon. 🌝 You can watch the landing here: https://contactgbs.com/space/.

✨💫✨

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Originally posted on Facebook.