The Space X Martian Trailer

In the past year or so it’s been interesting to see space agencies and companies produce movie-type trailers for scientific expeditions.  The technology is there, and it is a proven way to inspire the general public.  It also creates an opportunity to create some of the amazing science being done, even if it’s just a small taste. Space X has been candid about wanting to colonize Mars, and yesterday they released a trailer to give some inspiration to all of us. It shows a system that utilizes their nearly-established system of landing and reusing rockets, as well as refueling in...

Twilight Rocket Trail

Have you seen a gorgeous red sky in the evening, just after sunset? If it’s cloudy, the effect becomes even more spectacular.  The Sunlight reflects off the clouds and back down to the ground, creating the calm of twilight.  Clouds only go so high, so as the Earth continues to turn and we go deeper into nighttime, the glow disappears.  But sometimes it sticks around a bit longer. During a rocket launch at dusk, the exhaust trail from the rocket climbs into the upper atmosphere, far above cloud layers.  It can reflect sunlight, with the shape of the particles refracting...

Falcon Flight to the Galaxy

In the APOD photo from May 14th, it is easy to imagine the rocket launching far away into the galactic disk.  Sadly the rocket can’t traverse the thousands of light years to reach the distant stars, and is restricted to orbiting the Earth. Another beautiful part of this image is the technique involved in producing it.  It required combining two exposures. The first, with low sensitivity to capture the orange rocket trail of the Falcon 9.  The second with high sensitivity and a longer exposure time to capture the faint light of the Milky Way galaxy beyond.  The result is...

Rockets Blowing Up

Modern rocketry is a pinnacle of engineering.  It requires the right balance of multiple systems, and a deep knowledge of scientific principles such as fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, and chemistry.  But a huge part of the brute force science done in rocketry has been ‘try and fail.’  Countless rockets have exploded in tests dating back to the cold war, and even though they are much less frequent today, there is still value in learning from explosive and expensive mistakes.  Here is a compilation of rocket failures and testing from the last 70 years. ….because sometimes you have a day where you...

Launch . Land . Repeat

I talk a lot about SpaceX.  I write about their exploits, their goals, and their successes and failures.  But they are not the only major player in commercial space flight, not by a long shot.  They have been the most well-known company due to their 1.6 Billion dollar contract for supply missions to the International Space Station, but there is great work being done by others.  The one company that is starting to move into the spotlight is Blue Origin. Another company run by an internet billionaire, in this case Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Blue Origin has similar goals to Elon...

Falcon 9 Landing Video

From the recent success of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch and subsequent landing of the first stage rocket booster, space flight has been changed.  The future of space flight will become more like an airline, reusing vehicles regularly.  It’s been a long time coming, and it still has a long way to go, but it’s heading in the right direction.  SpaceX recently released video footage of the landing in full. Even though the landing was a secondary goal to the mission, which also launched over a dozen ORBCOMM telecommunications satellites into Earth orbit, it was the newsmaker.  It took a 60...

SpaceX Back in Action

After watching the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explode shortly after launch back in June, two things were going through my head.  “How will they handle this disaster?” and “When will they return to flight?”  The first question was answered in the weeks that followed as SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reported that the most likely cause of the accident was a failure in a second stage strut that held a high pressure helium tank in place.  The second question could be answered this evening when the first Falcon 9 launch in six months takes place at Cape Canaveral. The last time a...

Morning Launch

Nothing like a rocket launch in the early morning to inspire and wake you up.  The 4 Million Newtons of thrust and a weight of over 500 tons gives a nice blast of power to your morning that coffee never could.  I am talking about the Atlas V rocket that launched on September 2nd, carrying a US Navy communications satellite up into orbit. There is a lot happening in this medium exposure photo.  The rocket blasts off in a bright flash, then climbs into the atmosphere, where its exhaust plume becomes a noctilucent cloud, illuminated by the Sun that hasn’t...

Send Your Name to Mars

The next mission to Mars, called InSight (Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport), is slated to launch in Spring of 2016.  It will be the first stationary lander to investigate the internal structure of Mars and search for seismic activity, ie marsquakes!  NASA has always been good at including space enthusiasts in the public in their missions, giving them a human feel, and this mission is no exception.  You can sign up to have your name included on a silicon microchip on the lander! In the first 24 hours, NASA has had 67,000 people sign up, and they expect...

Ceres: Before and After

Remember a few months ago when excitement was high about seeing the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres for the first time with the Dawn spacecraft? Remember when the pictures were simple and blurry and looked more like a conspiracy theorist’s UFO pictures than another celestial body? Remember when I wrote about how cool it will be when we become the first humans in history, and the first form of life to ever see the surface of this object? The lead up to the Ceres encounter is well summed up in the NASA video from right before the encounter. I...