Rosetta’s lander Philae has returned the first panoramic image from the surface of a comet. The view as it has been captured by the CIVA-P imaging system, shows a 360º view around the point of final touchdown. The three feet of Philae’s landing gear can be seen in some of the frames. Superimposed on top of the image is a sketch of the Philae lander in the configuration the lander team currently believe it is in. The view has been processed to show further details. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA. Post processing: Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo
Marking a major triumph in human ingenuity, Europe’s Philae robotic probe touched down safely on the surface of a far-flung comet for the first time in human history, on Nov. 12, and successfully transmitted unprecedented science data after a gutsy 10-year journey through space.
Continue reading Philae Lands Three Times, Transmits Full Science Data Package, Then Sleeps … For Now
An artist’s rendering of December’s Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) test, which will take the Orion capsule 3,600 miles (5,800 km) into space. Image Credit: NASA
For any astronomer, Orion is a relatively straightforward constellation to find in the night sky. Honoring the hunter of ancient Greek myth, its “belt” of three stars—the supergiants Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka—are clearly visible to the naked eye, as is its approximate “rectangle” of Rigel, Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, and Saiph, particularly in the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere. For centuries, Orion’s stars have been used as navigational aids, guiding Earthly explorers to new lands and new vistas. And this winter, after more than a decade of planning, political frustrations, and cancellations, and with a still largely unshaped vision of its future, another Orion will embark on its first voyage into space. This mechanized Orion currently resides atop a mammoth Delta IV Heavy booster at Space Launch Complex (SLC)-37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., awaiting its date with destiny at 7:05 a.m. EST on Thursday, 4 December. When it launches, it will travel to an altitude of 3,600 miles (5,800 km), complete two orbits in 4.5 hours, then plunge back to Earth in excess of 20,000 mph (32,000 km/h), becoming the first human-capable vehicle for Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO) exploration since the Apollo era, more than four decades ago.
Continue reading A New Dawn: The Troubled History and Future Promise of NASA’s Orion Program (Part 1)
Cassini radar image of part of Kraken Mare, the largest sea on Titan. Radar echoes on a 25-mile (40-kilometer) track along the eastern shoreline are shown as black and blue circles. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell
The Cassini spacecraft continues to make new discoveries about Titan’s methane seas and lakes, answering some questions but raising additional ones as well. As announced this week, Cassini has discovered two more of the unusual “magic islands”—bright features which seem to appear in the seas where they didn’t exist before—and has measured the depth of the largest Titanian sea.
Continue reading Cassini Plumbs the Depths and New Mysteries of Titan’s Seas
Crews with Lockheed Martin lifting the NAVY’s MUOS-3 satellite for placement in its shipping container for delivery to Cape Canaveral, Fla., ahead of a planned January 2015 launch. Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin
The third in a five-ship fleet for a next-generation, narrowband tactical military satellite communications system is now at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, where crews are making final preparations for a scheduled Jan. 30, 2015, launch. The U.S. NAVY’s latest Mobile User Objective System satellite, identified as MUOS-3, arrived on a C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft via Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale, Calif., facility and nearby Moffett Federal Airfield on Nov. 5, 2014, courtesy of the 60th Air Mobility Wing of Travis Air Force Base.
Continue reading NAVY’s MUOS-3 Satellite Undergoing Final Preparations for Jan. 30 Launch From Cape Canaveral
The Surveyor 3 landing craft, backdropped by the Apollo 12 lunar module Intrepid, as viewed by Pete Conrad and Al Bean at the Ocean of Storms in November 1969. Photo Credit: NASA
Within minutes of arriving on the Moon’s surface, early on 19 November 1969, Apollo 12 astronaut Charles “Pete” Conrad began erecting an S-band communications antenna, but this was rendered redundant when crewmate Al Bean ruined the television camera, as recounted in yesterday’s history article. Bean’s major task was to remove the two pallets of Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) equipment from the rear of Intrepid’s descent stage. If the television camera had been working, he would have relocated it to provide the audience with a clear view of this activity. After connecting the two pallets to a horizontal bar, he would lug them to the site chosen for their deployment.
Continue reading 45 Years Since Apollo 12: The Surveyor and the Lonely Man (Part 4)
Al Bean carries the panniers of the first Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) across the dusty terrain for installation. Photo Credit: NASA
Forty-five years ago, in November 1969, the human race comprised an estimated three billion souls on Planet Earth … and three others. A quarter of a million miles away, Apollo 12 astronauts Charles “Pete” Conrad, Dick Gordon, and Al Bean were in the midst of preparing for humanity’s second piloted landing on the surface of the Moon. Coming only months after Neil Armstrong’s historic “one small step,” there were few who seriously believed that traveling to our closest celestial neighbor could ever be routine, and Apollo 12 demonstrated the very real dangers of space exploration … as well as the rewards it could reap.
Continue reading 45 Years Since Apollo 12: The Hammer and the Protuberances (Part 3)
NASA’s Orion deep space crew capsule arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex-37 shortly after 3 a.m. EDT Wednesday morning, Nov. 12, 2014. America’s largest rocket, the ULA Delta-IV Heavy, is scheduled to launch Orion on the EFT-1 mission at sunrise Dec. 4, 2014, ushering in NASA’s first spaceflight on the path to putting humans on Mars by the 2030s. Photo Credits: AmericaSpace / Alan Walters / Talia Landman / Mike Killian
The spacecraft which will eventually send NASA’s astronauts to Mars and back has arrived at its Florida launch pad to meet America’s largest rocket for a scheduled Dec. 4 sunrise launch. NASA’s Orion deep space crew capsule made the six hour, 5-mph, 22-mile trip from Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex-37 Tuesday night, arriving at the launch site under a moonlit sky shortly after 3 a.m. EDT Wednesday morning, Nov. 12, 2014.
Continue reading PHOTOS: Orion Arrives at Launch Pad for Sunrise Blastoff on Highly Anticipated EFT-1 Mission
Philae ROLIS camera image acquired during descent on 12 November 2014 at 14:38:41 to Comet 67P/C-G from a distance of approximately 3 km from surface. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR
For the first time in human history, a manmade object has touched down on the surface of a comet!
Marking a truly astounding moment, the Philae lander, built by the European Space Agency (ESA), soft landed on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko today, Nov. 12, while traveling some 500 million kilometers (300 million miles) from Earth at over 41,000 mph on a mission of cutting edge science to elucidate our origins.
Continue reading Touchdown! ESA’s Philae Probe Soft Lands on a Comet for First Time in Human History
Eerie perspective of one of the Apollo 12 astronauts at work with the Apollo Lunar Hand Tool (ALHT) on the desolate Ocean of Storms. Photo Credit: NASA
Rocketing our fleshy bodies into space has never—and, some might say, can never—be truly routine, and certainly rocketing our fleshy bodies out of Earth’s gravitational well and charting a course for our nearest celestial neighbor, the Moon, carries enormous risk and has only been attempted nine times in human history. As recounted in yesterday’s history article, Apollo 12 astronauts Charles “Pete” Conrad, Dick Gordon, and Al Bean endured a hair-raising opening to their November 1969 mission, when the Saturn V booster was twice struck by lightning seconds after liftoff, leaving them with the prospect of a dead spacecraft. Thankfully, the timely actions of Mission Control and the crew had brought the command and service module Yankee Clipper back to life, and the three men proceeded with their three-day journey to the Moon.
Continue reading 45 Years Since Apollo 12: The Surveyor Crater and the Belly of the Snowman (Part 2)
A set of high-resolution images of the vast circumstellar debris disks around 11 nearby young stars, which were obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope, have helped astronomers to study their complex and dynamic structure for the first time in great detail. This visible-light survey, called HST/GO 12228, was done with Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), blocking out the light from the host stars so that the very faint reflected light from the dust structures could be seen. The images have been artificially colored to enhance detail. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Schneider (University of Arizona), and the HST/GO 12228 Team
Ultrasound imaging technology has allowed medical doctors to directly observe a baby inside its mother’s womb in an efficient manner and study its natural development throughout the course of pregnancy, while providing parents with images of life’s wondrous formation process at the same time. On a larger cosmic scale, similar life-bearing, awe-inspiring processes occur as well, inside the large circumstellar disks of dust and gas that surround the very young and newly formed stars in the Universe, providing the raw material out of which planets (and potentially life) eventually evolve. The observation of these faraway cosmic structures (as well as everything else that we can see in the night sky) is conducted not through the utilisation of sound waves, but through the study of the light that the former emit in multiple wavelengths. Now, as part of an observing campaign which utilized the superior capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have managed for the first time to image the inner regions of circumstellar dust debris disks around 11 nearby young stars in visible light in unprecedented detail, revealing their previously unseen complex and chaotic structures, while allowing astronomers to gain important insights into the late stages of planetary formation.
Continue reading Construction Site Ahead: Hubble Observes Planet-Forming Circumstellar Dust Disks in Great Detail