Astronauts prepare for spacewalk Tuesday to finish ISS repairs

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins is seen during the spacewalk in this photo courtesy of NASA.

"Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are planning a second and final spacewalk to fix the outpost's cooling system early on Tuesday." More at Reuters. Also, read our earlier post on Saturday's successful spacewalk. Read the rest

How is China's lunar mission going? Here's a rover postcard from the moon.

"The Chang'e 3 lander took this photo of the rover Yutu on December 22, 2013. The rover had completed a semicircular tour of the lander and was departing the lander due south. This version of the image has been white-balanced and color-corrected." Image: CNSA / Gordan Ugarkovic

Planetary Society blogger Emily Lakdawalla has posted a roundup of what China's lunar rover Yutu has been up to on the Chang'e 3 unmanned space exploration mission. Lots of pictures. Read the rest

Happy holidays from Saturn and its moons, and from the astronomers who study them

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn and two of its most fascinating moons, Titan and Enceladus, are the focus of a holiday image release from NASA's Cassini imaging team. Cassini Imaging Team leader Carolyn Porco writes:

We on the Cassini imaging team deliver to the world this holiday season ... what else! ... the gift of heavenly imagery starring the majestic globe of Saturn and its two most astounding moons, Titan and Enceladus. In this, our 10th Christmas offering from across the hundreds of millions of miles that lie between us and Saturn, you will find some of the most splendid and fascinating sights this historic exploration of the ringed planet has uncovered: the hexagonally-shaped jet stream encircling the pole in Saturn's northern hemisphere, the graceful shadows of its rings arcing across its south, the northern lakes and seas of liquid organics hidden under the hazy atmosphere of Titan, the brilliant ball of glittering ice that is the small active world of Enceladus, and more.

More about the image above: Read the rest

NASA re-creates historic earthrise photo on Apollo 8 anniversary, in video form

NASA has issued a new visualization of the events leading to one of the iconic photographs of the 20th Century – Earth rising over the moon captured by the crew of the Apollo 8 mission. The dazzling video was created at Goddard with recent data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft and audio records of the 1968 event.

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Astronauts complete successful ISS repair spacewalk

NASA: "Expedition 38 Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins wrapped up a 5-hour, 28-minute spacewalk outside the International Space Station at 12:29 p.m. EST Saturday, completing the first in a series of excursions aimed at replacing a degraded ammonia pump module associated with one of the station's two external cooling loops that keeps both internal and external equipment cool. A second spacewalk to install a replacement pump module, originally planned for Monday, is now scheduled for Tuesday."

More at SpaceFlightNow and NYT.

[Image: NASA TV] Read the rest

Real-life 'Gravity' on ISS this weekend? Drama surrounds repair spacewalks

Alan Boyle,'s science editor: "Several factors, including a scary spacewalk in July involving water in a spacesuit helmet, have combined to add some extra drama to the repair operation that begins Saturday" on the International Space Station. Read the rest

Cecil Castelucci's Tin Star: first five chapters free

Every new Cecil Castellucci book is cause for celebration around here, and her latest, Tin Star -- the first volume in a new young adult science fiction series -- is no exception. Castellucci's got a gift for characters and dialog (this being part of her success in her extensive work in comics) and a stellar imagination. The story -- researched in part through workshops with NASA for science fiction writers -- is a tale of romance, escape and adventure on a remote space station where the charismatic leader of a colony ship is revealed for a monster.

The first five chapters of Tin Star are a free download (other formats here), so you can make up your own mind. But I know that my copy of Tin Star's going straight into my Christmas holiday reading pile. Read the rest

The color of the Sun

A beautiful, informative, and surprising video from NASA. [link] Read the rest

Space stinks

TIL: Astronauts fart a lot, because weightlessness hampers your ability to burp and, thus, any gas that builds up in your digestive system has to come out the other way. Read the rest

The Moon is terrifying, and that's why I love it

Former NASA developer Katy Levinson explains why we should care about the Moon as much as Mars--even if its dust is a killer problem.

Panoramic image of Curiosity Rover under Mars's night sky

Jeffrey sez, "360Cities' intrepid member Andrew Bodrov, stitching master of interplanetary awesomeness, has constructed this composite image (i.e. 'fake view') of the Curiosity Rover at night under the Milky Way. You can even see Phobos, Mars' own moon in the night sky."

Mars Panorama - Curiosity rover: Martian night Read the rest

China's on the Moon

A little after 8:00 am Eastern Time today, China's Chang'e 3 became the first object to make a soft landing on the surface of the Moon since 1976. That's a shot of the Moon's surface above, taken by the lander after it made touchdown. Emily Lakdawalla has GIFs of the actual landing and continuing coverage. You should also be able to watch some live footage on the Chinese state television streaming website later this afternoon. (Word is that it will pick back up around 4:00 pm Eastern, but Lakdawalla points out that estimated times haven't been precise, so if you're really into seeing the footage live, you should keep checking the site.) has some more technical information about the landing. Read the rest

Kinetic solar system jewelry

Norwegian jeweler Miriel Design (AKA Josephine Ryan) has created a bunch of kinetic solar system necklaces, available in her Etsy store. Here's a set of photos of them, and here's her discussion on Reddit. The pieces vary in price, from $380-$500, depending on their complexity, but they're all flat-out gorgeous, and represent a tremendous amount of precision labor. Read the rest

The crazy storm on Saturn

Fun fact: Saturn has a storm that's every bit as big as Jupiter's better-known Great Red Spot. It's been spinning over Saturn's north pole for 30 years. And it's shaped like a hexagon. Read the rest

Museum-grade replica Apollo-era NASA flight jacket

Robert sez, "An Apollo astronaut, looking to keep the 'right stuff' forefront in the public's eye, has recreated his iconic NASA-issued blue flight jacket down to the last button. Al Worden, who in 1971 flew to the moon as the pilot of the Apollo 15 command module Endeavour, wore out his original flight jacket years ago. But working with a space enthusiast out of London, Worden has now reproduced the distinctive NASA outerwear as a museum-quality replica, which is being offered for sale. Read the rest

SpaceX completes first mission to geostationary transfer orbit


An announcement from SpaceX today:

"Space Exploration Technologies successfully completed its first geostationary transfer mission, delivering the SES-8 satellite to its targeted 295 x 80,000 km orbit. Falcon 9 executed a picture-perfect flight, meeting 100% of mission objectives.
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How we know what atmosphere is like on a planet outside our solar system

WASP-19b is an exoplanet whose atmosphere is probably super hot and super poisonous — filled with methane and hydrogen cyanide instead of water. This video explains how astronomers can even begin to guess at the composition of the atmospheres of far away worlds. (Bonus: A soothing elevator music soundtrack!) Read the rest

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