Fifteen years ago, next week, STS-97 installed the first set of U.S.-built solar arrays, radiators and batteries onto the International Space Station (ISS), transforming it into the brightest artificial object in Earth’s skies. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de
Fifteen years ago, next week, power—in the form of two immense, electricity-generating solar arrays, together with associated batteries and radiators—arrived in spectacular fashion at the International Space Station (ISS). Launched on 30 November 2000, shuttle Endeavour and her STS-97 crew of Commander Brent Jett, Pilot Mike Bloomfield and Mission Specialists Joe Tanner, Carlos Noriega and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Marc Garneau became the first humans to visit the infant station’s incumbent Expedition 1 crew and, during the course of three EVAs, delivered, installed and activated one of the largest, longest and most massive structures ever carried into space. In fact, as will be outlined in this weekend’s history articles, the $600 million P-6 Integrated Truss Structure (ITS) would go on to play a key role in powering the station during its early development and has taken center-stage in a number of recent operations, including this month’s U.S. EVA-33.
Continue reading ‘The First Shuttle Ever to Bounce’: 15 Years Since STS-97 Powered-Up the Space Station (Part 1)
A new theoretical study has shown that Earth may be surrounded by long and very dense hair-like filaments of dark matter, which could potentially be directly observed by dedicated space-based dark matter detectors. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
When hunting for dark matter, where would the best place to search for it be? The answer according to a new study is in the vicinity of the Earth just one million kilometers away, an area where our home planet grows long hair-like streams of the elusive, enigmatic substance.
Continue reading New Study Suggests Earth May Be Surrounded by Long Hair-Like Filaments of Dark Matter
Artist’s conception of the helicopter-like drone which could accompany the Mars 2020 Rover. Image Credit: NASA
Over the past few years, numerous orbiters, landers and rovers have been sent to Mars, revealing the world as never before. There is, however, something else which hasn’t been done yet – a helicopter, airplane or balloon. An airborne probe could provide stunning views of the Martian surface between those of a lander/rover and an orbiter at much higher altitude. The concept has been considered and tested to some degree, and now it may be moving closer to becoming a reality. The latest studies involve the possibility of sending a small helicopter-like drone along with the Mars 2020 Mission rover.
Continue reading Drones on Mars? Small ‘Helicopter-Like’ Scout Could be Added to Mars 2020 Rover Mission
The first of 18 mirrors being installed in the James Webb Space Telescope, in the clean room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Photo Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) just took a big step towards reality with the successful installation of the first of its many flight mirrors. This is the critical beginning of the final phase of construction of the telescope, which will be the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.
Continue reading First of 18 Mirrors Installed as Final Assembly Phase for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Begins
Today’s Thanksgiving celebrations will feature not one, but as many 16 “dawns”, for the incumbent Expedition 45 crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Photo Credit: NASA
As millions of Americans the world over tuck into their Thanksgiving meals today (Thursday, 26 November), spare a thought for the six-strong Expedition 45 crew—Commander Scott Kelly of NASA, Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko, Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Volkov, U.S. astronaut Kjell Lindgren and Japan’s Kimiya Yui—as they observe the holiday from their perch aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Although the day is a particularly significant one for Kelly and Lindgren, it has become customary for all nationalities to celebrate each other’s special occasions and the crew is expected to share a dinner of turkey, candied yams, rehydratable corn and potatoes au gratin. According to Kelly, who, alongside Kornienko, is presently a little over 70 percent of the way through a historic year-long stay aboard the orbiting outpost, the crew will have an off-duty day Thursday and expect to be watching football later this afternoon.
Continue reading Expedition 45 Crew to Celebrate Thanksgiving With Turkey and Candied Yams Aboard Space Station
An artist’s illustration of cometary fragments passing in front of a star. A new study based on data gathered by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope suggests that the anomalous dips in brightness that have been observed around the star KIC 8462852 are caused by the fragmentation of similar cometary fragments. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
What is orbiting the star KIC 8462852? Astronomers have been stuck with this nagging question ever since a team of citizen scientists from the Planet Hunters project first detected a series of very strange dips in the star’s brightness back in 2011, while analysing data that had been gathered by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. There has been no shortage of proposed explanations that have been put forth in order to account for the unusual observations, from the more mundane ones which include the presence of cometary fragments and large disk of debris from planetary collisions within the star system, to the more imaginative and fascinating ones which have invoked the presence of an extraterrestrial super-civilisation that is in the process of constructing gigantic megastructures around the star itself. While the mystery of KIC 8462852’s brightness variations is still far from settled, a new study by a team of astronomers that has utilised NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope suggests that the culprit is most probably a huge swarm of cometary fragments that revolve around the star on highly elongated eccentric orbits.
Continue reading Spitzer Data Suggests Kepler’s Strange ‘Alien’ Star is Surrounded by Comets, not Alien Megastructures
From NASA: “Katherine Johnson sits at her desk with a globe, or ‘Celestial Training Device.'” Johnson’s work as a research mathematician contributed to NASA’s successes from the Mercury to the Shuttle programs, and beyond. Photo Credit: NASA
Decades before astronaut Sally Ride became the first U.S. woman to soar into space, and a decade before the first woman cosmonaut rocketed into orbit at the dawn of the Space Age, mathematics dynamo Katharine Johnson was working as a “human computer” at the agency that existed before NASA was even known as NASA. In addition, during the height of segregation, she was an African-American working as a professional at the top of her field. Known for solving issues critical to the success of programs encompassing Mercury, Apollo, and Shuttle, the 97-year-old was rewarded with the nation’s highest civilian honor for her efforts in space exploration. On Tuesday, Nov. 24, Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. She was one of 17 who received this distinction.
Continue reading A Pioneering Spirit: NASA’s Katharine Johnson Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom
Blue Origin flies and lands the world’s first fully reusable rocket from its launch site in West Texas. Credit: Blue Origin
Blue Origin made history Monday evening when the private aerospace company successfully launched and recovered their New Shepard launch vehicle from their launch site in West Texas. The vehicle reached an altitude of 329,839 ft. (100.5 km) before returning to Earth, making Blue Origin’s New Shepard system the first launch vehicle to successfully reach space and return for a soft landing on terra firma.
Continue reading Bezos’ Rocket Landing a Big Step for Suborbital Spaceflight but Not Same as Falcon-9 Plans
The opening salvo of four Space Launch System (SLS) flights, beginning with Exploration Mission (EM)-1 in November 2018, will contain a core stage powered by four clustered RS-25D engines. Image Credit: NASA
More than four years since three of its kind were last fired in anger, on 8 July 2011, to deliver Atlantis’ STS-135 crew towards orbit—on the poignant final flight of the Space Shuttle Program—Aerojet Rocketdyne’s famous RS-25 engine was granted a new lease of life yesterday (Monday). NASA has awarded the Sacramento, Calif.-based propulsion manufacturer a $1.16 billion, nine-year contract to restart its production, prior to the inaugural voyage of the Space Launch System (SLS) booster on Exploration Mission (EM)-1 in November 2018. Better known to history as the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME), the revival of the RS-25 production line will see Aerojet Rocketdyne modernize the oxygen-and-hydrogen-fueled powerplant to make it more affordable and expendable for the SLS, as well as implementing fewer parts and welds and certifying it to higher thrust levels.
Continue reading NASA Contracts With Aerojet Rocketdyne to Restart RS-25 Engine Production for SLS
The “Chemical Laptop” being designed by NASA to help search for evidence of alien life elsewhere in the Solar System. Photo Credit: NASA
One of NASA’s primary objectives, and the one which most excites the general public, is the search for evidence of life elsewhere, whether in our own Solar System or on some distant exoplanet. However, the best way to go about that is a subject of much debate. Now, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have come up with a new proposal: a “Chemical Laptop,” a miniaturized portable laboratory which would look for signs of materials associated with life (at least as we know it), such as amino acids.
Continue reading NASA Developing New ‘Chemical Laptop’ to Search for Evidence of Alien Life