Orion is Ready for Launch – A bigger step into Space

The Orion vehicle is the successor to the Shuttle program.  Bigger, better, more powerful, advanced technology, and it will take humanity further into the void than we have ever been before. And on December 4th, it will fly for the first time ever. Here are some of the first shots of the Capsule atop the new Delta IV Heavy Rocket, including a shot of the Delta IV rocket in action (with a different payload). The Basics: From NASA (Link) Mission: Orion Flight Test Launch Date: Dec. 4, 2014 Launch Time: 7:05 a.m. EST Launch Window: 2 hours, 39 minutes Launch...

Earth’s Shield! A Natural Barrier in Space

Have you ever heard of the Van Allen belts? If not you really should learn about them.  After all, without them the majority of life on Earth could not survive. So what are they and how do they keep us alive? The Van Allen Belts are a collection of charged particles, held in place by the magnetic field of Earth, that act as a barrier to prevent the most harmful radiation from the Sun from reaching the surface of the Earth.  They shift according to the incoming energy of the Sun, and if there is a large enough swell of...

The Philae Landing: In 3D and Audio!

It’s been a week since the historic landing of Philae on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and the data keeps coming in.  As an Astronomy communicator, I’m always looking for great visual aids in my Astronomy in Action Shows.  They are more valuable to me than any piece of written news because they illustrate a concept quickly and efficiently.  A picture truly is worth a thousand words. But audio and video can be worth even more! Recently an image of the Philae landing was released, showing two images approximately 2 minutes apart.  This image gives a 3-Dimensional perspective of the comet as the...

Here’s what the Surface of the (2nd) Largest Asteroid Looks like

Vesta is the 2nd-largest Asteroid in the well known asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.  525 Km in diameter, it is very big for an asteroid.  If it was much bigger we would call it a dwarf planet. The Dawn Spacecraft, launched in 2007, stopped by Vesta in 2011 and stuck with it until 2012 as it orbited the sun.  We are still seeing the results of that rendezvous, and just recently NASA released a complete map of the surface features of Vesta. It’s amazing to see so many interesting surface features on such a small world.  Geologic...

Space Junk: An Infographic

I like this picture –  it gives good insight into just how much garbage is up there floating around in low Earth orbit. Space Junk has become a serious problem, and in the last few years has started to collide with satellites, creating more debris. Luckily, by 2018, Switzerland, with the help of Canada, will be launching a Space Junk Cleaner called CleanSpaceOne. Good on you Switzerland!

Orion Spacecraft Test Flight – Taking Humanity further into Space!

The Orion Spacecraft will eventually be the next vehicle to take humans further into space than ever before.  But before it can do that, it requires extensive testing to ensure its ready to go! The short infographic below from the crew working on Orion gives us an idea of how the major December flight test will go, and the altitudes being tested. If you can’t see it, the axes are y (miles) vs. x (hours). Last short post of the week as my teaching conference STAO ends today!

Rosetta Orbiter / Philae Lander Updates!

They did it! 10 Years in Orbit and 2 Billion dollars later, the landing is successful and confirmed.  Now comes the fun part: The resulting Science!!! The first image that was beamed through 28 ad a half light minutes showed the lander on its descent, about 3km from the surface. The landing wasn’t perfect though.  In fact it may have ‘landed twice.’  The 4km wide comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko doesn’t have enough gravity to keep the lander from flying out into space, which is why Philae was equipped with a harpoon system to lock it in place on the surface. Yesterday I...

The Rosetta Comet Landing is Right Now!

For the first time in human history we are landing on a Comet! Watch the live feed and you can follow the landing as it’s happening.  It is expected to touch down at about 11:03 EST.  The lander, named Philae, already detached from the Rosetta Spacecraft at about 4am EST, and is slowly moving toward the landing site.  Once it gets close enough it will launch harpoons (yup you read it right) to grab onto the comet and pull itself down to the surface, snapping photos along the way. The Science communication world has been following this story since the Orbiter arrived...

GAIA Satellite Could Reach 70,000 Exoplanet Discoveries

Launched in December of 2013, the European Space Agency (ESA)’s GAIA Mission will be the next great mission to find exoplanets, planets orbiting stars other than our own Sun. However, GAIA’s main mission is not to search for planets, but to look at the motion, physical characteristics, and distance of up to one Billion stars with incredible precision.  It’s a given that the satellite will invariably find planets by seeing the ‘wobble’ of a star due to the gravity of a planetary system. One of the strengths that GAIA posesses over other exoplanet studies is that it will search a...

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Crashes

It’s been a rough week in the space flight industry.  On Friday afternoon, a test flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo class VSS Enterprise resulted in a catastrophe, crashing down in the Mojave desert, killing one pilot, with the other ejecting and now being treated in hospital. During the test flight, launched by Virgin Galactic’s partner corporation Scaled Composites from the Mojave Spaceport,  WhiteKnightTwo, an aircraft designed to bring SpaceShipTwo to launch altitude, successfully released the spacecraft.  After two minutes, something went wrong, resulting in the eventual crash of the craft. Virgin Galactic released a statement shortly after the accident, saying the National...