Continue reading Be an Asteroid Hunter in NASA’s First Asteroid Grand Challenge Contest Series
Gathered, appropriately, in Japan’s Kibo module, the first Japanese astronaut ever to command the International Space Station (ISS) officially kicked off Expedition 39 yesterday (Sunday) in a moving and humorous ceremony. Koichi Wakata—who was launched aboard Soyuz TMA-11M last November, alongside Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio—will now lead the outpost until mid-May. In the meantime, their three outgoing Expedition 38 crewmates—Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky and NASA’s Mike Hopkins—are scheduled to undock from the ISS aboard their Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft late Monday for touchdown on the steppe of Kazakhstan a few hours later. In doing so, Kotov, Ryazansky, and Hopkins will complete 166 days in orbit.
Continue reading Wakata Assumes First Japanese ISS Command, as Kotov’s Crew Prepares for Monday Night Homecoming
On 18 March 1965, a representative of humanity gained a view that only God or another space traveler had ever experienced: The view of Earth from high above the atmosphere—unhindered by the walls of any spacecraft—was truly remarkable, like a vast atlas, laid out before Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov … without the borders or lines. His Extravehicular Activity (EVA), or “spacewalk,” lasted just 13 minutes and ended as the Voskhod-2 craft passed over the frozen wastes of eastern Siberia, when his commander, Pavel Belyayev, radioed instructions to return inside. The tranquility of floating in the sea of fathomless blackness must have been difficult to leave, but Leonov started his move back toward the airlock. Not until many years later would it become clear how close the world’s first spacewalk came to disaster.
Continue reading To Swim in Space: The World’s First Spacewalk (Part 2)
From the moment he saw it, Alexei Leonov was captivated. He and a dozen other cosmonauts were touring the OKB-1 design bureau, near Moscow, with Chief Designer Sergei Korolev. Unlike the spherical Vostok capsules on the production line, one craft in particular was quite distinct; it possessed a long, cylindrical airlock, with a movie camera jutting out to one side. Korolev explained that sailors had to know how to swim and, by extension, cosmonauts should learn to “swim” in space. Shortly afterward, Leonov found himself in a space suit, practicing how to squeeze in and out of the airlock. When he had finished, someone clapped him on the back. It was his close friend, Yuri Gagarin. In a whisper, Gagarin told him that Korolev had just selected Leonov to perform the world’s first “spacewalk.”
Continue reading To Swim in Space: The World’s First Spacewalk (Part 1)
— Arthur C. Clarke, “3001: The Final Odyssey” (1997)
The possibility of life and intelligence appearing very early in the history of the Universe has been pondered in many science fiction stories, from Arthur C. Clarke’s “Odyssey” book series to “Star Trek” and “Babylon 5″ on television. Though speculative, this idea has been given more credence in recent years, with the discovery of many exoplanets around the long-lived red dwarf stars that permeate the galaxy and from a series of studies suggesting that the conditions on at least some of these planets could allow for the emergence and development of life.
Continue reading Bathed in Crimson Light: New Exoplanet Discoveries and the Prospect of Habitability Around Red Dwarf Stars
The debate over possible evidence for life on Mars is one of the most hotly debated subjects in space science, and some news released Feb. 27 is sure to add fuel to the fire. Studies of a Martian meteorite, known as Yamato 000593 (Y000593), have revealed signs of past liquid water activity as well as possible evidence of actual biological processes.
Continue reading Is This New Evidence for Ancient Life on Mars?
For years scientists and dreamers alike have looked toward Jupiter’s moon Europa with a keen interest, because decades of observations and research of the frozen world (thanks to spacecraft like Galileo and Voyager) have shown us that the Jovian satellite is easily one of the most likely places—if not the most likely place—in the Solar System where life might be found (other than Earth, of course). Consistently shrinking budgets, nationwide economic troubles, competing interests for federal dollars, and a large deficit currently hold hostage any future Flagship planetary missions for the next several years, but the Fiscal Year 2015 budget request from the White house includes $15 million in funding for NASA to begin work designing a robotic mission to Europa, with a launch date targeted for the early 2020s.
Continue reading Why NASA’s Plans for an Early 2020s Mission to Europa Are Likely to Happen
On Wed., March 5, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and United Launch Alliance (ULA) CEO Michael Gass both testified at a hearing on National Security Space Launch Programs before the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. The hearing had a focus on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, and both Musk and Gass delivered their sales pitches to the Appropriations Committee as to why their company’s launch services are the best choice for sending sensitive tax-payer Department of Defense satellites into orbit.
Continue reading SpaceX and United Launch Alliance Face-Off at Hearing for Military Launch Contracts
For the crew of the International Space Station (ISS), the Sun rises and sets 16 times daily, as they circle the globe every 90 minutes. However, on Sunday, 9 March, another Sun—the blood-red rising Sun of the Japanese flag—will rise in the annals of human space flight, as Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov hands over command of the ISS to Japan’s Koichi Wakata, officially ending Expedition 38 and kicking off Expedition 39. For the next two months, Wakata will become the first of his countrymen to take charge of the space station. It is a pivotal and historic event and offers sterling recognition for the people of the Land of the Rising Sun, who have maintained their staunch support for the ISS and its predecessor, Space Station Freedom, since 1984.
Continue reading Koichi Wakata to Assume First Japanese ISS Command Sunday
Since 2010, the Obama Administration’s proposed annual NASA budget for human spaceflight (HSF) has been rejected by Congress. The Administration’s proposed fiscal year 2015 NASA budget, announced today, will likely meet the same fate.
Past proposed NASA HSF budgets by the Obama Administration, specifically the 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 budgets, died in large part because Congress was unwilling to accept proposed cuts to NASA’s human spaceflight programs, specifically the Orion and Space Launch System programs, in favor of a larger Commercial Crew program budget. Given that history, Congress will surely be surprised by the Administration’s proposal to dramatically increase the Commercial Crew program budget from $696 million to nearly $1.1 billion while cutting the Orion and SLS programs by 7 percent.
Continue reading The 2015 NASA Budget