Voyager 2's new messages home illuminate the mysteries of interstellar space

In 1977, NASA launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, on a grand tour of the solar system and into the mysteries of interstellar space. Famously attached to each of these probes is the Voyager Golden Record containing a message for any extraterrestrial intelligence that might encounter it, perhaps billions of years from now. Voyager 1 entered interstellar space in 2012. Last year, Voyager 2 joined its twin beyond the heliosphere, described by NASA as "the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by our Sun." Today sees the publication of several scientific papers analyzing the data that Voyager 2 has sent back since its crossing. Congratulations to the inspiring scientists and engineers behind these latest papers and the incredible Voyager mission, still going strong 40+ years later! From NASA:

Each paper details the findings from one of Voyager 2's five operating science instruments: a magnetic field sensor, two instruments to detect energetic particles in different energy ranges and two instruments for studying plasma (a gas composed of charged particles). Taken together, the findings help paint a picture of this cosmic shoreline, where the environment created by our Sun ends and the vast ocean of interstellar space begins.

The Sun's heliosphere is like a ship sailing through interstellar space. Both the heliosphere and interstellar space are filled with plasma, a gas that has had some of its atoms stripped of their electrons. The plasma inside the heliosphere is hot and sparse, while the plasma in interstellar space is colder and denser.

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I didn't know chipmunks could attend Space Mission Bible Camp!

Re-edit courtesy of Everything is Terrible, although I also found the original VHS source on Amazon which includes this delightful plot summary:

Chadder Chipmunk wants to be the first chipmunk in space. So Space Mission Bible Camp sounded like the perfect place to launch his career. But no sooner did Chadder pull on his jumpsuit than he was spotted by The Exterminator … a rodent-thumping commando who can't wait to catch Chadder!

Featuring footage shot at Kennedy Space Center, here's fast-paces, out-of-this-world adventure your kids will turn to again and again. And each time they'll be reminded that the best launch of all is to be launched on a mission of God's love!

And yes of course the villainous Exterminator is Russian. Who else would want to ruin Space Mission Bible Camp for chipmunks? Read the rest

International Space Station's "Plastic Recycler" machine will crank out 3D printer feedstock in orbit

Next Saturday, Made In Space's Plastic Recycler will be delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) to convert certain waste plastic into feedstock for the company's Additive Manufacturing Facility, a 3D printer operating aboard the ISS (image below). From Made In Space:
The Plastic Recycler was developed through a partnership with Brazil-based, Braskem, Americas’ largest thermosplastic resin producer. The partnership adopted Green Plastic, a bio-based resin made from sugarcane, for the printing of tools and spare parts by astronauts. GreenTM polyethylene is made from ethylene derived from sugarcane ethanol.

From Braskem's prior description of the device:

The machine consists of a plastic crushing and extrusion system that produces a filament that can be used by the 3D printer already installed on the ISS. The recycler will allow astronauts to, among other applications, use the Green Polyethylene tools and parts previously fabricated by the 3D printer, as well as other plastic materials already on the ISS that no longer are being used, such as food packaging.

More at Space.com: "Plastic Recycler Will Turn Space Station Trash into 3D Printing Stock"

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LIVE: Watch the first all-woman spacewalk

NASA is streaming the first all-woman spacewalk from 8 a.m. eastern time. Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are fixing a failed power controller on the International Space Station.

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NASA videos on the harshness of space and a cool new space suit for exploring the Moon

We're going back out there, but it's dangerous out there and y'all better know it.

Space travel is hard and unforgiving, but we have never been more ready to meet the unknown.

Team members from NASA’s #Artemis program share the risks and rewards of this next era of exploration. Artemis will push the boundaries of human exploration and send the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024, preparing for missions to Mars and beyond.

SO. How about an awesome new space suit for exploring the polar south pole?

At NASA Headquarters on Oct. 15, 2019, Administrator Jim Bridenstine introduced the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) and Orion Crew Survival System suit which will be will be worn by first woman and next man as they explore the Moon as part of the #Artemis program.

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Fantastic marching band tribute to the Apollo 11 moon landing

In celebration of this year's 50th anniversary of the first humans on the moon, the Ohio State Marching Band staged this wonderful performance on Saturday.

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Listen to 'dinks and donks,' Marsquakes, and other weird sounds from the Red Planet

The NASA Insight lander on the Martian surface is equipped with an ultrasensitive seismometer to detect and record vibrations, from marsquakes to soft breezes to other unidentified vibrations. Listen below. From Space.com:

If we were on Mars with our ears to the ground, our ears wouldn't be sensitive enough to detect marsquakes. Even the recordings taken by Insight are too low to be audible to humans, but by speeding up the audio and lightly processing it, you can listen to marsquakes that Insight captured earlier this year...

As of now, Insight has heard and recorded over 100 events on Mars. But while scientists are fairly certain that 21 of these events are marsquakes, the remaining could be quakes — or something else. Scientists think these remaining events could also be caused by other sources of vibration on the planet.

Being so sensitive, the SEIS instrument detects just about everything, from the movement of the lander's robotic arm to Martian wind gusts.

The Insight team has noticed that, particularly at night, the instrument picks up strange sounds that they refer to as "dinks and donks," according to the statement. They think that these strange sounds could be caused by the instrument cooling down.

More: "NASA's InSight 'Hears' Peculiar Sounds on Mars" (NASA)

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Watch the trailer for "Snoopy In Space"

Snoopy has been a NASA mascot for more than 50 years going back to the Apollo missions. Now, Snoopy is headed to the International Space Station for a new cartoon series, Snoopy In Space, launching November 1 on Apple TV+.

NASA image below: "Headed for the launch pad, Apollo 10 Commander Tom Stafford pats the nose of a stuffed Snoopy held by Jamye Flowers (Coplin), astronaut Gordon Cooper’s secretary."

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Incredible photo from the space station that astronaut Christina Koch took of her best friend headed to meet her in orbit

NASA astronaut Christina Koch, currently on board the International Space Station, took this stunning image of her pal Jessica Meir launching into space toward the ISS.

"What it looks like from @Space_Station when your best friend achieves her lifelong dream to go to space," Koch tweeted. From Space.com:

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and United Arab Emirates spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan today (Sept. 25) at 9:57 a.m. EDT (1457 GMT or 6:57 p.m. local time). They were bound to join a crew of six currently living and working on board the International Space Station, including Meir's astronaut training classmate, Christina Koch.

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A Beautiful World: Earth as seen from the International Space Station

Here's a beautiful NASA music video and photo montage with awe-inspiring shots from ISS Expedition 56. Read the rest

NASA is going to Europa

NASA announced today that the agency is moving ahead with a planned mission to Jupiter's moon Europa. In this next phase, engineers will complete the final design, construction, and testing of the Europa Clipper spacecraft for a launch as soon as 2023. Why the icy moon Europa? From NASA:

NASA's Europa Clipper mission will conduct detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter's moon Europa to see whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life. The mission will carry a highly capable, radiation-tolerant spacecraft that will perform repeated close flybys of the icy moon from a long, looping orbit around Jupiter.

The payload of selected science instruments includes cameras and spectrometers to produce high-resolution images of Europa's surface and determine its composition. An ice penetrating radar will determine the thickness of the moon's icy shell and search for subsurface lakes similar to those beneath Antarctica. The mission also will carry a magnetometer to measure strength and direction of the moon's magnetic field, which will allow scientists to determine the depth and salinity of its ocean.

"This is a giant step in our search for oases that could support life in our own celestial backyard," says Europa program scientist Curt Niebur.

That's all well and good, assuming we attempt no landing there.

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See the Perseids meteor shower through August 24

The Perseid meteor shower peaked last night (8/13) but you'll still be able to spot them streaking across the sky through August 24. The meteors are particles left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle. From NASA's Perseids page:

How to Observe Perseids

If it’s not cloudy, pick an observing spot away from bright lights, lay on your back, and look up! You don’t need any special equipment to view the Perseids – just your eyes. (Note that telescopes or binoculars are not recommended.) Meteors can generally be seen all over the sky so don’t worry about looking in any particular direction.

While observing this month, not all of the meteors you’ll see belong to the Perseid meteor shower. Some are sporadic background meteors. And some are from other weaker showers also active right now, including the Alpha Capricornids, the Southern Delta Aquariids, and the Kappa Cygnids. How can you tell if you’ve seen a Perseid? If you see a meteor try to trace it backwards. If you end up in the constellation Perseus, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a Perseid. If finding constellations isn’t your forte, then note that Perseids are some of the fastest meteors you’ll see!

Pro tip: Remember to let your eyes become adjusted to the dark (it takes about 30 minutes) – you’ll see more meteors that way. Try to stay off of your phone too, as looking at devices with bright screens will negatively affect your night vision and hence reduce the number of meteors you see!

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In space, no one can hear you dream

Some folks can sleep anywhere. Others, while traveling, need the comfort of a pillow brought with them from home in order get a bit of shut eye. For the privileged handful that have journeyed into space, taking a snooze is, well, like nothing else on earth.

In this video, former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino provides some insider insight on what it takes to catch a few Z's in zero-gravity. Read the rest

Astonishing new portrait and video of Jupiter

NASA has just released this incredible image of Jupiter taken by the Hubble Space Telescope on June 27, 2019. From NASA:

This new Hubble Space Telescope view of Jupiter, taken on June 27, 2019, reveals the giant planet's trademark Great Red Spot, and a more intense color palette in the clouds swirling in Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere than seen in previous years. The colors, and their changes, provide important clues to ongoing processes in Jupiter's atmosphere. The new image was taken in visible light as part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy program, or OPAL. The program provides yearly Hubble global views of the outer planets to look for changes in their storms, winds and clouds. Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 observed Jupiter when the planet was 400 million miles from Earth, when Jupiter was near "opposition" or almost directly opposite the Sun in the sky....

This animation (below) of a rotating Jupiter was assembled from a Hubble Space Telescope photographic mosaic of almost the entire planet. The resulting flat map was computer-projected onto a sphere to create a rotating globe (excluding the polar regions above 80 degrees latitude). Jupiter completes one rotation every 9.8 hours. The giant planet's trademark Great Red Spot is the orange-colored oval that is as big as Earth. Distinct parallel bands of roiling clouds dominate our view above Jupiter's deep hydrogen/helium atmosphere. The colorful cloud bands are confined by jet streams blowing in opposite directions at different latitudes. A characteristic string of white oval-shaped anticyclones appears along one latitude band in the planet’s southern hemisphere.

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Wonderful new Snoopy astronaut watches from Timex

Snoopy has been a NASA mascot for more than 50 years going back to the Apollo missions. Now, Timex has released a wonderful "Snoopy In Space" collection of wristwatches. The watches in the line start at $89. Here's NASA on the space agency's history with the Peanuts gang:

NASA has shared a proud association with Charles M. Schulz and his American icon Snoopy since Apollo missions began in the 1960s. Schulz created comic strips depicting Snoopy on the Moon, capturing public excitement about America’s achievements in space. In May 1969, Apollo 10 astronauts traveled to the Moon for a final checkout before lunar landings on later missions. Because the mission required the lunar module to skim the Moon’s surface to within 50,000 feet and “snoop around” scouting the Apollo 11 landing site, the crew named the lunar module Snoopy. The command module was named Charlie Brown, Snoopy’s loyal owner.

'All Systems Are Go!' with Timex 'Snoopy In Space' watch collection (collectSPACE)

NASA image below: "Headed for the launch pad, Apollo 10 Commander Tom Stafford pats the nose of a stuffed Snoopy held by Jamye Flowers (Coplin), astronaut Gordon Cooper’s secretary."

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How the Apollo 11 rocket was projected onto the Washington Monument

Earlier this month, I was in Washington DC during the Smithsonian's festivities around the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and the first human moon landing. As you likely saw, UK-based creative studio 59 Productions and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum collaborated on an astonishing audiovisual experience centered around a lifesize Saturn V rocket projected onto the Washington Monument. Read the rest

NASA fed moonrocks to cockroaches and injected moon dust into mice

When the Apollo 11 crew brought home a big stash of moon rocks in 1969, NASA scientists immediately kicked off a series of carefully-planned tests to ensure that even tiny amounts of lunar dust wouldn't be bad news for Earth's biosphere. "We had to prove that we weren't going to contaminate not only human beings, but we weren't going to contaminate fish and birds and animals and plants and you name it," said Charles Berry, who was in charge of medical operations for the Apollo missions. From Space.com:

First, NASA chose the species it would use. In addition to the mice, the agency and its partners also selected other representative species: Japanese quail to represent birds, a couple of nondescript fish, brown shrimp and oysters for shellfish, German cockroaches and houseflies for creepy-crawlies, and more....

Then, the agency tapped into its precious cache of 49 lbs. (22 kilograms) of newly delivered lunar material. Scientists ground everything to dust, half of which they baked to sterilize and half of which they left as it was. The prescription varied a little with animal type: mice and quail got the lunar sample as an injection, insects had the sample mixed into their food and aquatic animals had the moon dust added to the water they lived in.

NASA watched the menagerie for a month in case anything seemed to suffer from the lunar exposure. The German cockroaches that were fed moon dust — true to the insects' reputation — thrived despite the exotic diet.

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