The geysers at the south pole of Enceladus, as seen by the Cassini spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI
Saturn’s moon Enceladus is already known as one of the most intriguing places in our solar system, and now new findings from the Cassini spacecraft have been published, which will only add to our fascination with this little world.
Continue reading Behold Enceladus: Cassini Maps 101 Geysers on Tiny Saturn Moon
Technicians load cargo aboard the fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) at the Guiana Space Centre in March 2014. Photo Credit: ESA
A giant Ariane 5 booster stands ready at the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, awaiting a nocturnal liftoff at precisely 8:47:38 p.m. local time (7:47:38 p.m. EDT) on Tuesday, 29 July, to deliver the European Space Agency’s (ESA) fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) to provide equipment and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Originally scheduled to fly on 24 July, the mission was postponed by several days to permit what Arianespace—the Paris, France-based launch services organization—described as “complementary verifications on the Ariane 5 launch system.” That work has now been completed, and on Tuesday, 22 July, Arianespace announced the revised launch date. Assuming an on-time liftoff, ATV-5 will dock at the aft longitudinal port of the station’s Zvezda module on 12 August and is expected to remain until late January 2015.
Continue reading Europe’s Final ATV Cargo Ship to Launch Tuesday Atop Ariane 5 Booster
This artist’s concept shows Kepler-421b, a Uranus-sized transiting exoplanet with the longest known year, circling its star once every 704 days. Kepler-421b orbits an orange, K-type star that is cooler and dimmer than our Sun and is located about 1,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra. Image Credit/Caption: Harvard-Smithsonian, Center for Astrophysics/D. A. Aguilar
With new exoplanet discoveries announced almost at a monthly basis, it is no surprise that only those that involve potentially Earth-like, habitable worlds mostly manage to grab the headlines. Yet, as exoplanetary research has shown, even the ones that do not fit that bill are fascinating in their own right, offering a great insight into the processes that drive planetary formation and evolution. Such is the case with the discovery of the first Uranus-sized exoplanet candidate in a stable long-period orbit that was announced earlier this week, which could be similar to the ice giants of our own Solar System.
Continue reading Astronomers Discover First Ice Giant Exoplanet Candidate in Long-Period Orbit
This graphic depicts the orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as it swings around the Sun in 2014. On Oct. 19, 2014, the comet will have a very close pass at Mars. Its nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Earth’s invasion fleet at Mars is about to experience an unprecedented close encounter with a new cometary visitor this fall, and NASA is implementing a multi-pronged strategy that’s simultaneously aimed at reaping an unexpected scientific bonanza while also protecting its priceless orbiting armada from “Gravity” like destruction from a trail of hurtling space debris.
Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring is swinging around the Sun and heading toward an extremely close flyby with the Red Planet on Oct. 19, 2014. See the flyby graphics and animation above and below.
Continue reading NASA Realigns Red Planet Armada to Reap Science Bonanza During Upcoming Comet Flyby and Protect Priceless Probes
Columbia roars into the darkened Florida sky at 12:31 a.m. EDT on 23 July 1999. It would be one of the most hazardous launch phases in shuttle history. Photo Credit: NASA
Fifteen years ago, this week, the first woman ever to lead a space mission was launched aboard Shuttle Columbia to deliver NASA’s $1.5 billion Chandra X-ray Observatory—the third of a quartet of “Great Observatories” to observe the Universe across most of the electromagnetic spectrum—into a highly elliptical orbit. As described in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, the demands of Eileen Collins’ STS-93 mission were fraught with risk; risk which she and her crewmates, Jeff Ashby, Catherine “Cady” Coleman, Steve Hawley, and Frenchman Michel Tognini, were keenly aware of. However, as their July 1999 liftoff drew nearer, they intuitively knew that rising from Earth into orbit was arguably the most hazardous journey of any mission. Not until they actually began that journey, however, would they truly realize how hazardous it really was.
Continue reading ‘Whatever Was Needed’: 15 Years Since the First Female Shuttle Commander (Part 2)
Eileen Collins, the first female spacecraft commander in history, floats in Columbia’s middeck, 15 years ago this week. Photo Credit: NASA
“It’s great to be back in zero-g again,” said STS-93 commander Eileen Collins, early on 23 July 1999, as she and her four crewmates set about preparing the Shuttle Columbia for five days of orbital activities, but added darkly that “a few things to work on ascent kept it interesting.” Those things, within seconds of liftoff, almost forced Collins—the first woman to command a space mission, 15 years ago, this week—to perform a hair-raising abort landing back at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), and the incident effectively grounded the shuttle fleet for almost six months.
Continue reading ‘Making Superman Jealous’: 15 Years Since the First Female Shuttle Commander (Part 1)
Progress M-24M approaches its docking with the International Space Station (ISS), less than six hours after departing Baikonur. Photo Credit: NASA
Less than six hours after departing Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Russia’s Progress M-24M cargo craft successfully docked automatically at the Earth-facing (or “nadir”) port of the International Space Station’s (ISS) Pirs module at 11:31 p.m. EDT Wednesday. The spacecraft brought approximately 5,500 pounds (2,500 kg) of equipment, supplies, and experiments to the station’s incumbent Expedition 40 crew—which consists of Russian cosmonauts Aleksandr Skvortsov, Oleg Artemyev, and Maksim Surayev, U.S. astronaut Reid Wiseman, and Germany’s Alexander Gerst, under the command of U.S. astronaut Steve Swanson—and will remain in place through late October. At the time of docking, the ISS and Progress M-24M were orbiting about 259 miles (418 km) over the Pacific Ocean, just off the western coast of South America.
Continue reading Progress M-24M Delivers 2014′s Third Batch of Russian Supplies to Space Station
Artist rendering of commercial Mars satellites providing communications back to Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL
Facing the undeniable reality of a looming communications gap in the 2020s in getting gigabits of precious data back from NASA’s highly productive science armada exploring Mars, the agency is now soliciting information on the potential for utilizing commercial Mars-orbiting telecommunications satellites to provide transmission capabilities for future robotic missions to the Red Planet. And this could also be useful for Humans to Mars missions in the longer term.
“We are primarily interested in communications coverage starting in the 2020s,” Lisa May, Lead Program Executive, Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters, told AmericaSpace exclusively in response to my questions about NASA’s timing and requirements.
Continue reading NASA Solicits Commercial Mars Telecom Relay Proposals to Avoid Science Transmission Gap
Composite Chandra image of four supernovae: the Crab Nebula, Tycho, G292.0+1.8, and 3C58. Image Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO
The Chandra X-Ray Observatory, NASA’s space telescope which observes the universe using X-rays, has now completed its 15th year of operations, and astronomers are celebrating the anniversary with a series of special images from the orbiting observatory.
Continue reading NASA’s X-Ray Space Telescope Celebrates 15 Years
The STS-93 crew poses with a model of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. This shuttle mission also entered into the history books for having the first female commander (Eileen Collins, here joined by Steven Hawley, Jerry Ashby, Michel Tognini, and Cady Coleman). Photo Credit: NASA
The 2009 book Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream, written by Tanya Lee Stone, details the struggles encountered by the “Mercury 13,” a group of women pilots subjected to many of the same tests undergone by the Mercury astronauts—but who were denied the right to fly into space based upon their gender. One of the final chapters in the book is entitled, “We Want to See a Woman Driving the Bus, Not Sitting in the Back.”
On July 23, 1999, decades after this intrepid group of women dared to even dream of space, a woman was finally “driving the bus”: An Air Force flyer, Eileen Collins, became the first woman to command a space shuttle on STS-93 (Columbia). Today marks 15 years since that pioneering milestone in spaceflight history.
Continue reading ‘A Woman in the Driver’s Seat’: Remembering STS-93, First Flight Helmed by a Female Shuttle Commander