WATCH: Astronauts prepare for rare splashdown in SpaceX capsule, target is 7:34 p.m. EDT on Saturday, August 1

WATCH THE SPLASHDOWN EVENT LIVE HERE, the SpaceX video embed in this post will go live with pre-event content sometime before 7pm EDT on Saturday August 1. Read the rest

Mars rover Perseverance launches NASA mission to Red Planet

NASA launched its latest and greatest rover, Perseverance, to Mars on Thursday, from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Read the rest

Why is there a crashed space capsule in Winganon, Oklahoma?

In the late 1950s, a truck carrying a cement mixer crashed on E300 Road between Talala and Winganon, Oklahoma. Apparently too heavy for anyone to deal with, the mixer sat for decades where it was occasionally graffitied or whimsically decorated. In 2011, artists Heather and Barry Thomas celebrated their wedding anniversary by transforming the drum mixer into a space capsule. It's now a popular roadside attraction for curious travelers, terrestrial or otherwise.

Winganon Space Capsule (via MAKE) Read the rest

WATCH: Virgin Galactic spaceship new cabin design reveal

I'd totally go. Read the rest

Fungi from Chernobyl could protect astronauts from radiation in space

In 1991, scientists discovered a strange form of fungi growing at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The organisms seem to feed on radiation, converting gamma rays into energy for growth. Now, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Stanford University are exploring whether these "radiotrophic fungi" could protect astronauts living on the Moon or Mars. A big benefit is that the fungus self-replicate so the material could be grown upon arrival rather than having to be carried into space from Earth. Experiments conducted on the International Space Station suggest that growing a layer of fungus on top of Mars rock could result in a sufficient shield for people stationed on the Red Planet. From their technical paper in bioRxiv:

In search of innovative radiation-shields, biotechnology holds unique advantages such as suitability for in-situ resource utilization (ISRU), self-regeneration, and adaptability. Certain fungi thrive in high-radiation environments on Earth, such as the contamination radius of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Analogous to photosynthesis, these organisms appear to perform radiosynthesis, using pigments known as melanin to convert gamma-radiation into chemical energy. It is hypothesized that these organisms can be employed as a radiation shield to protect other lifeforms.[...]

Estimations based on linear attenuation coefficients indicated that a ~ 21 cm thick layer of this fungus could largely negate the annual dose-equivalent of the radiation environment on the surface of Mars, whereas only ~ 9 cm would be required with an equimolar mixture of melanin and Martian regolith. Compatible with ISRU (in-situ resource utilization), such composites are promising as a means to increase radiation shielding while reducing overall up-mass, as is compulsory for future Mars-missions.

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The next Venus rover will have a steampunk vibe

Hybrid Autonomous Rover – Venus is the next spacecraft scheduled to explore our hellish neighbor, and it will be more like a clock than a computer to survive the conditions. Read the rest

This is the closest photo ever taken of the Sun

The European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter satellite took this incredible image of the Sun, the closest photo ever taken of our star. It reveals tiny solar flares dotting the surface. The image above was captured at a distance of 77 million kilometers. From Nature:

“When the first images came in, my first thought was this is not possible, it can’t be that good,” David Berghmans, principal investigator for the orbiter’s Extreme Ultraviolet Imager instrument, told a press briefing on 16 July. “It was much better than we dared to hope for.”

“The Sun might look quiet at the first glance, but when we look in detail, we can see those miniature flares everywhere we look,” said Berghams, a solar physicist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium, in a statement.

The fires are millions or billions of times smaller than solar flares that can be seen from Earth, which are energetic eruptions thought to be caused by interactions within the Sun's magnetic fields. The mission team has yet to figure out whether the two phenomena are driven by the same process, but they speculate that the combined effect of the many campfires could contribute to the searing heat of the Sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona. Why the corona is hundreds of times hotter than its surface is a longstanding mystery.

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Explore every moon in our solar system with this interactive atlas

The Atlas of Moons is National Geographic's amazing interactive project to explore the incredible diversity of over 200 moons in our solar system, like Europa, shown above. Each moon is described and shown with as much recent information available. Read the rest

Pluto and five moons in our solar system have more water than Earth

There is less water on planet Earth than on Pluto, as revealed in this graphic by NASA's Steve Vance (bio). Moreover, five moons orbiting other worlds in our solar system—Europa, Triton, Callisto, Titan and Ganymede—have more. Ganymede has nearly 40 times as much water as planet Earth! Read the rest

I know a kid who will be building the LEGO Ideas International Space Station

This LEGO Ideas version of the International Space Station pretty much made my 10-year-old nephew's head explode.

Complete with astronaut minifigs and a mini-Space Shuttle, this 864 piece kit is pretty hard to turn away from.

LEGO Ideas International Space Station 21321 Building Kit, Adult Set for Display, Makes a Great Birthday Present, New 2020 (864 Pieces) Read the rest

Tropical Storm Fay imaged by NASA's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS)

NASA's AIRS instrument captured this image of Tropical Storm Fay around 2 p.m. local time on July 10, 2020, as the storm swept through New England. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

From NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

Tropical Storm Fay is sweeping across New England, with the center of the storm making landfall about 10 miles (15 kilometers) north-northeast of Atlantic City, New Jersey, at around 5 p.m. local time. At that time, Fay had maximum sustained winds of around 50 mph (85 kph). Forecasters predicted the storm will dump up to 7 inches (18 centimeters) of rain along its path from Delaware into New Jersey.

NASA's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) collected this image at around 2 p.m. local time on Friday, July 10. The purple regions indicate very cold clouds lofted high into the atmosphere by the storm and generally linked to heavy rainfall. Warmer clouds closer to the ground show up as green and blue, while the orange areas denote mostly cloud-free parts of the sky.

AIRS, together with the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU), measures the infrared and microwave radiation emitted from Earth to study the planet's weather and climate. Both instruments observe Earth from NASA's Aqua satellite, which launched in 2002.

AIRS and AMSU work in tandem to make simultaneous observations down to Earth's surface, even in the presence of heavy clouds. With more than 2,000 channels sensing different regions of the atmosphere, the system creates a global, three-dimensional map of atmospheric temperature and humidity, cloud amounts and heights, greenhouse gas concentrations, and many other atmospheric phenomena.

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Apollo 16 footage interpolated from 12 to 60 frames per second

DAIN is an AI-powered method for adding "missing" frames of footage. Standard interpolation treats the existing frames as flat fields of color and contrast, but the AI models the depth of regions in the scene, resulting in a more convincing and less "smeary" results. Let's go for a ride on the moon!

Apollo 16 Rover Traverse to Station 4 16mm footage interpolated from 12fps to 60fps with DAIN-AI. Colour corrected and synchronized with audio.

Raw 16mm film & Audio: NASAVideo & Audio Processing: Dutchsteammachine

Here's Apollo 14:

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US silver dollar coin design commemorating astronaut/schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe

Next year, the United States Mint will release a silver dollar coin commemorating astronaut and elementary school teacher Christa McAuliffe who died with her six crewmates when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded after liftoff on January 28, 1986. The candidate coin designs (below) were presented to the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) and the group's majority vote aligned with the preferences of the McAuliffe family. The US Treasury will make the final decision. From Space.com:

The heads-side design focuses on McAuliffe's profile, in a way reminiscent of the U.S. Mint's more traditional commemorative coins. The black and white NASA photograph on which it was based was taken on Sept. 12, 1985, while McAuliffe, NASA's "Teacher in Space" participant, received a briefing on the flight suit and personal hygiene equipment that she would use on Challenger's STS-51L mission. "With respect to the coin and the purpose of the coin, I think what strikes me is the gaze is to the future, as it should be," said [Christa McAuliffe's widower U.S. District Court judge Steven McAuliffe]. "It is the look of quiet, committed courageousness[...]"

The family's preferred tails-side design depicts McAuliffe in her role as a New Hampshire social studies teacher, prior to her being selected for NASA's Teacher in Space program from a nationwide pool of more than 11,000 applicants. She is shown standing alongside three children while pointing upwards to the sky[...]

Surcharges from the sale of the McAuliffe silver dollar will benefit Kamen's FIRST organization and its student robotics competitions for "the purpose of engaging and inspiring young people through mentor-based programs to become leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics," [director of the U.S.

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WATCH: Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Unity completes 2nd flight from Spaceport America (mission recap video)

Definitely book me on the very first flight off this hell-planet 2020, yes please. Read the rest

NASA renames DC headquarters after Mary W. Jackson

Mary W. Jackson was one of the black women mathematicians at NASA whose contributions to the space race were made in a segregated and sexist environment and left unsung until the publication of Margot Lee Shetterly's book Hidden Figures [Amazon]. Jackson's name will now grace NASA's D.C. headquarters, permanently honoring a "human computer" who made the moon landing possible.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Wednesday the agency’s headquarters building in Washington, D.C., will be named after Mary W. Jackson, the first African American female engineer at NASA.

Jackson started her NASA career in the segregated West Area Computing Unit of the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Jackson, a mathematician and aerospace engineer, went on to lead programs influencing the hiring and promotion of women in NASA's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers. In 2019, she was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

“Mary W. Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped NASA succeed in getting American astronauts into space. Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology,” said Bridenstine. “Today, we proudly announce the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building. It appropriately sits on ‘Hidden Figures Way,’ a reminder that Mary is one of many incredible and talented professionals in NASA’s history who contributed to this agency’s success. Hidden no more, we will continue to recognize the contributions of women, African Americans, and people of all backgrounds who have made NASA’s successful history of exploration possible.”

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This curious object fell from the sky in northern India

This curious rock fell from the sky above Sanchore, Rajasthan, northern India on Friday, alarming residents with a huge explosive sound and leaving a one-foot crater where it fell. The object is palm-sized and weighs 2.7kg. According to police, it was very hot. They've since turned it over to the Geographical Survey of India. From The Tribune:

"We have inspected the site where the object had fallen from the sky with a loud sound. Prime facie, it appears to be a piece of meteorite, which has been seized and kept safe as it shall be sent to the lab for further examination."

The officials concerned also got it tested in a private lab located at the jeweller's shop in Sanchore who confirmed that the piece had metallic properties of Germanium, Platinium, Nickel and Iron (10.23 per cent of nickel, 85.86 per cent of iron, platinum 0.5 per cent, cobbit 0.78 per cent, geranium 0.02 per cent, antimony 0.01 per cent niobium 0.01 and other 3.02 per cent).

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Enjoy watching the NASA astronauts spacewalk

Things on Earth are a mess, but it's fun watching these NASA Astronauts at work on a 24/7 live feed from the International Space Station.

You can see Earth from the International Space Station in these videos, and it looks so calm from up there. Read the rest

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