the International Space Station has been in orbit for 20 years!

You read that headline right: the ISS has been bopping around our planet for two long decades. How do you celebrate one of the greatest collaborative scientific undertakings in human history? If you're the European Space Agency, you plop out the longest spacebound timelapse video ever taken for the world to enjoy. Read the rest

A most incredible NASA promotional video

"We Are NASA" thrills me more than any science fiction movie trailer, and it's real.

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California Fires: From space, NASA JPL maps damage from Woolsey and Camp blazes

The Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, created these Damage Proxy Maps (DPMs) that show the areas in California that were probably damaged by the Woolsey and Camp Fires. Read the rest

The first selfie in space was taken 52 years ago today

On this day in 1966, Buzz Aldrin took the first selfie in space while standing on his seat and hanging out of an open hatch as part of the Gemini XII mission. From NASA:

This “stand up” EVA (the first of three during the mission) was conducted with the hatch off while Aldrin stood on his seat, his upper body clear of the spacecraft. He completed his tasks with ease, including setting up an ultraviolet camera to image star fields, installing a movie camera, fixing a handrail, and retrieving a micrometeorite experiment. The flawless EVA lasted two hours and twenty minutes.

The second EVA, on November 13, was the real test of Aldrin’s extensive training. Attached to the spacecraft by an “umbilical” cord, he stepped out into space and began his work. The combination of underwater training, multiple restraints and handholds on both vehicles, and a new waist tether paid off: he was able to perform the needed tasks on both the Gemini XII and the GATV without a struggle. He rested periodically, which allowed him to recover between activities, and used the new restraints to position his body in diverse ways that weren’t possible on previous missions. The EVA was a resounding success.

For the final EVA, like the first one, Aldrin stood in his seat on the spacecraft. He discarded unneeded equipment and food containers, knowing they would eventually reenter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, and took pictures of stars. Altogether, Aldrin spent five and a half hours conducting the Gemini XII spacewalks.

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Astonishing close-up image of Jupiter taken by Juno last month

NASA's Juno spacecraft took this glamour shot of Jupiter on October 29, 2018, from about 4,400 miles (7,000) kilometers above the planet's clouds. From NASA:

A multitude of magnificent, swirling clouds in Jupiter's dynamic North North Temperate Belt is captured in this image... Appearing in the scene are several bright-white “pop-up” clouds as well as an anticyclonic storm, known as a white oval.

Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran created this image using data from the spacecraft's JunoCam imager.

JunoCam's raw images are available for the public to peruse and to process into image products at: http://missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam.

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Watch the first 8k video from the International Space Station

NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) released the first 8k ultra high definition (UHD) video of life and science inside the International Space Station. From NASA:

The Helium 8K camera by RED, a digital cinema company, is capable of shooting at resolutions ranging from conventional HDTV up to 8K, specifically 8192 x 4320 pixels. By comparison, the average HD consumer television displays up to 1920 x 1080 pixels of resolution, and digital cinemas typically project in resolutions of 2K to 4K....

Delivered to the station in April aboard the 14th SpaceX cargo resupply mission through a Space Act Agreement between NASA and RED, this camera’s ability to record twice the pixels and at resolutions four times higher than the 4K camera brings science in orbit into the homes, laboratories and classrooms of everyone on Earth.

“We’re excited to embrace new technology that improves our ability to engage our audiences in space station research,” said David Brady, assistant program scientist for the International Space Station Program Science Office at Johnson. “Each improvement in imagery fidelity brings that person on Earth closer to the in-space experience, allowing them to see what human spaceflight is doing to improve their life, as well as enable humanity to explore the universe.”

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Watch NASA and JPL test the 2020 Mars lander parachute

JPL and NASA have tested their incredible 2020 Mars mission parachute three times. The video is a joy. Read the rest

For sale: magnificent NASA supersonic plane model from the 1960s

This gorgeous 1960s aerodynamic test model of a NASA supersonic transport plane from the space agency's Langley Research Center can be yours for $5,685. On offer from Agent Gallery Chicago, it's approximately 51" long with a wingspan of 24" and "built of wood and composite materials." Unfortunately, one of the fins has snapped off but I'm sure the right person could work wonders with a little balsa wood, X-acto knife, and paint.

"RARE 1960'S NASA AERODYNAMICS SST MODEL" (via Uncrate)

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NASA photo of incredibly odd rectangular iceberg

NASA’s Cryospheric Sciences Program released this astonishing aerial photo of a rectangular iceberg in Antarctica. Located on the Larsen C ice shelf, the curious iceberg is likely one mile or so across. From the BBC News:

Such objects are not unknown, however, and even have a name - tabular icebergs.

These are flat and long and form by splitting away from the edges of ice shelves.

Kelly Brunt, a glaciologist with Nasa and the University of Maryland, said the process of formation was a bit like a fingernail growing too long and cracking off at the end.

They were often geometrically-shaped as a result, she said.

"What makes this one a bit unusual is that it looks almost like a square," she added.

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Magnificent "Voyager of the Moons" GIF from Cassini's images from Jupiter and Saturn

Kevin M. Gill, a software engineer and data wrangler at NASA-JPL, created the fantastic video below "using still images taken by the Cassini spacecraft during it's flyby of Jupiter and while at Saturn.

"Shown is Io and Europa over Jupiter's Great Red Spot and then Titan as it passes over Saturn and it's edge-on rings," Gill wrote on Flickr.

image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/CICLOPS/Kevin M. Gill Read the rest

Video: Fifty years ago today was the first Apollo mission to carry a crew to space

On October 11, 1968, NASA launched the first Apollo crew into space. This mission, Apollo 7, opened the spaceways for the moon landing the following July. Apollo 7 had the following objectives: Demonstrate Command and Service Module (CSM) with crew performance; demonstrate mission support facilities' performance during a crewed mission and demonstrate Apollo rendezvous capability; demonstrate live TV broadcasts from space.

From NASA:

The Apollo 7 crew was commanded by Walter Schirra, with Command Module Pilot Donn Eisele, and Lunar Module Pilot Walter Cunningham. The mission consisted of an 11-day Earth-orbital test flight to test the Apollo command and service module. It was also the first time a crew flew on the Saturn IB rocket.

Although Apollo 7 was a complete technical success, it was born out of a tragedy. After the fatal fire that took the lives of the Apollo 1 crew—Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Ed White—the Apollo 7 crew took over the mission.

Apollo 1 was supposed to be the first crewed Apollo mission. During a launch rehearsal test at Cape Kennedy, an electrical fire broke out in the cabin. Because the cabin atmosphere was pure oxygen, the fire spread incredibly quickly. The fire also created intense pressure inside the cabin, and because the hatch could only swing inward, the crew was stuck inside.

All further crewed missions had to wait until NASA could determine the sources of the mishap—technical and organizational—and ensure that nothing like it would happen again. In the 21 months between Apollo 1 and Apollo 7, the Apollo spacecraft and spacesuits were redesigned to more safely fly crews to space.

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Rocket failure forces emergency landing by joint American-Russian crew

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin were forced to make an emergency landing in Kazakhstan this morning during their attempted trip to the International Space Station. The duo were on board a Russian-built Soyuz rocket, launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan when, according to early reports from NASA, the rocket's booster failed minutes after liftoff.

NASA reported in a tweet that the “...Soyuz capsule is returning to Earth via a ballistic descent, which is a sharper angle of landing compared to normal.” A search and rescue team was deployed to pick up the astronaut and cosmonaut from the capsule's landing site, approximately 12 miles east of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, will be conducting a formal investigation into what went wrong with their rocket.

Scary shit. Read the rest

Voyager 2 spaceprobe may be on the verge of interstellar space

NASA's Voyager 2 space probe, launched in 1977 on a grand tour of the solar system, may be nearing interstellar space. Carrying a message for extraterrestrials, the iconic Golden Record, the Voyager 2 is now about 11 billion miles (about 17.7 billion kilometers) from Earth and still sends data back daily from its various sensors. Most recently, it has detected an increase in higher-energy cosmic rays that originate outside our solar system. This increase in the rate of cosmic rays indicates that the Voyager 2 may soon break through the heliosphere, the "bubble" of charged particles generated by our sun, and cross into interstellar space. Voyager 1 entered interstellar space in 2012.

From the Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

The fact that Voyager 2 may be approaching the heliopause six years after Voyager 1 is also relevant, because the heliopause moves inward and outward during the Sun's 11-year activity cycle. Solar activity refers to emissions from the Sun, including solar flares and eruptions of material called coronal mass ejections. During the 11-year solar cycle, the Sun reaches both a maximum and a minimum level of activity.

"We're seeing a change in the environment around Voyager 2, there's no doubt about that," said Voyager Project Scientist Ed Stone, based at Caltech in Pasadena. "We're going to learn a lot in the coming months, but we still don't know when we'll reach the heliopause. We're not there yet -- that's one thing I can say with confidence."

In a decade or so, Voyager 1 and 2 will run out of power and go silent. Read the rest

Hurricane Florence in 3D, as seen by NASA's MISR onboard the Terra satellite

Get your red-blue 3D glasses out. NASA today shares a stunning stereo anaglyph 3-D image of Hurricane Florence, captured from the MISR instrument flying on-board the Terra satellite, which carries nine cameras that observe Earth at different angles. Read the rest

Case of the missing moon rocks

After the Apollo 11 moon landing nearly 50 years ago, the White House gifted tiny samples of moon rocks to all the 50 states and 135 countries. They were encased in acrylic and mounted on a wooden plaque. In 2002, Joseph Gutheinz, then a NASA investigator, realized that nearly all of them had vanished. Thanks to his persistence since then, there are only two missing lunar souvenirs of the 50 distributed in the US. From the AP:

NASA did not track their whereabouts after giving them to the Nixon administration for distribution, said chief historian Bill Barry, but added the space agency would be happy to see them located.

Gutheinz began his career as an investigator for NASA, where he found illicit sellers asking millions for rocks on the black market. Authentic moon rocks are considered national treasures and cannot legally be sold in the U.S., he said.

Many of the Apollo 11 rocks have turned up in unexpected places: with ex-governors in West Virginia and Colorado, in a military-artifact storage building in Minnesota and with a former crab boat captain from TV’s “Deadliest Catch” in Alaska.

In New York, officials who oversee the state museum have no record of that state’s Apollo 11 rock. In Delaware, the sample was stolen from its state museum on Sept. 22, 1977. Police were contacted, but it was never found.

"Moon rock hunter closes in on tracking down missing stones" (AP, thanks Bob Pescovitz!) Read the rest

Saturn has northern lights, too

Earth shares a cool phenomenon with Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn: all have observable auroras. NASA created a lovely animation of Saturn's, as well as some cool still images. Read the rest

Happy anniversary, Voyager 1 and the Voyager Golden Record!

On this day in 1977, NASA launched Voyager 1 on a grand tour of the solar system and into the mysteries of interstellar space. (It followed the launch of Voyager 2 a few weeks earlier.)

Attached to each of these probes is a beautiful golden record containing a message for any extraterrestrial intelligence that might encounter it. This enchanting artifact, officially called the Voyager Interstellar Record, may be the last vestige of our civilization after we are gone forever.

Curated by a committee led by Carl Sagan, the Golden Record tells a story of our planet expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth’s greatest music from myriad peoples and eras, from Bach and Beethoven to Blind Willie Johnson and Chuck Berry, Benin percussion to Solomon Island panpipes. Natural sounds—birds, a train, a baby’s cry, a kiss—are collaged into a lovely audio poem called "Sounds of Earth." There are spoken greetings in dozens of human languages—and one whale language—and more than 100 images encoded in analog that depict who, and what, we are.

Two years ago, my friends Timothy Daly, Lawrence Azerrad, and I released the Voyager Record to the public on vinyl for the first time as a lavish box set. Our project's resonance with the public, and the Grammy that we were honored to receive for it, are really a testament to the majesty of the original record and the entire Voyager mission. As the original Golden Record's producer, Timothy Ferris, wrote in the liner notes for our box set, the Voyagers are on a journey not just through space but also through time. Read the rest

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