An image of the galaxy EGS8p7, as seen from the Hubble Space Telescope. The top inset at the right shows a magnified view of the same image centered around EGS8p7, while the bottom insert shows the same view as seen by the Spitzer Space Telescope in infrared wavelengths. EGS8p7 is the most distant galaxy discovered to date, located more than 13.2 billion light-years away, at a time when the Universe was just 600 million years old. Image Credit: I. Labbé (Leiden University), NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech
The history of observational cosmology is one of studying ever-receding horizons, with scientists striving to look ever deeper into the most distant parts of the observable Universe. With all the advances being made in powerful new instruments and novel observing techniques in recent years, we’re now used to astronomers announcing new discoveries on a constant basis regarding the finding of the biggest cosmic object, the more massive, or the most distant ever, which have yielded many important insights into the workings of the early Universe. The latest such example comes from a couple of new studies that have utilised the power of NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes as well as that of ground-based observatories, allowing astronomers to detect the telltale signs of the earliest galaxies in the Universe that were created just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang itself.
Continue reading Astronomers Probe Light From Very Early Universe, Discover Most Distant Galaxy to Date
From today forward, at Kennedy’s Fire Station 1, stands a memorial to the tragic events that took place on Sept. 11, 2001. This memorial serves not only as a reminder to all those who have first-hand knowledge of Sept. 11, but a touchstone for future generations to feel the connection. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace
There are some events in our lives which leave an indelible mark, perhaps none more so than the loss of almost 3,000 innocent lives on the morning of 11 September 2001, when a pair of commercial airliners ploughed into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, followed by two others: one which hit the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and the other—thanks to the extreme heroism of its passengers and crew—which failed to reach its targets in Washington, D.C., and instead crashed into a field near Shanksville, Penn. In addition to 9/11’s civilian toll, the United States lost 343 firefighters of the New York City Fire Department, including a chaplain, two paramedics, and a fire marshal. At 10 a.m. EDT today (Friday), their memory was honored in a poignant ceremony at Fire Station-1 at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) industrial complex, with a recently-arrived I-beam fragment from the World Trade Center in pride of place.
Continue reading World Stands Still to Remember 9/11 as KSC Firefighters Pay Tribute With New Memorial
Perspective view of Pluto, composed of the latest high-resolution images. The entire expanse of terrain seen in the image is 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) across. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
After a lull of several weeks, the downlinking of new data from the New Horizons spacecraft has begun, including stunning new images of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, as well as a treasure trove of other scientific data. There is so much to come that it will take about one year to downlink everything from the spacecraft and send back to Earth. Those first amazing images of Pluto and its moons were only the beginning.
Continue reading Here It Comes! Massive Downlink of Pluto Data Starts With Spectacular New Images
Artist concept of OSIRIS-REx in the environs of Asteroid Bennu, sometime after 2018. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
While avid space watchers may thrill to missions such as Stardust (which returned a sample from a comet), Dawn (which visited an asteroid and dwarf planet), and Rosetta (which placed a lander upon a comet’s surface), sometimes the significance of smaller solar system body missions is lost on the general public, as planetary missions seem more “glamorous.” Enter OSIRIS-REx (short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer), which is on track for a September 2016 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s (CCAFS) Space Launch Complex 41. This mission has been described as a “game changer” in small Solar System body exploration.
Continue reading OSIRIS-REx Taking Shape, Engineers Explain Innovative Asteroid Sample Return Mechanism
Impressive view of Atlantis and part of the International Space Station (ISS), captured during the STS-106 mission, 15 years ago, this week. Photo Credit: NASA
Amid cloudy conditions, only days after the departure of Hurricane Debby and having sustained a pre-launch strike on the Lightning Protection System at Pad 39B, NASA’s 99th space shuttle rocketed into orbit 15 years ago, this coming week. On 8 September 2000, Atlantis and her seven-man STS-106 crew—Commander Terry Wilcutt, Pilot Scott Altman, and Mission Specialists Ed Lu, Rick Mastracchio, Dan Burbank, and Russian cosmonauts Yuri Malenchenko and Boris Morukov—began a mission, which barely eight months earlier, was only just beginning to appear on NASA’s radar for the year. As described in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, STS-106 was inserted into the shuttle manifest when it was recognized that the increasing complexity of a previous mission, STS-101, required it to be split into two discrete halves. Slated to run for at least 11 days, STS-106 was tasked with delivering upwards of 6,600 pounds (3,000 kg) of supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), thus preparing its newly-arrived Zvezda service module for the first long-duration crew, as well as executing a six-hour EVA by Lu and Malenchenko to hook up cables and utilities between the new module and the rest of the outpost.
Continue reading ‘About People Living in Space’: 15 Years Since STS-106 (Part 2)
From NASA/JPL: “The Lonely Mountain: NASA’s Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers). The mountain, located in the southern hemisphere, stands 4 miles (6 kilometers) high. Its perimeter is sharply defined, with almost no accumulated debris at the base of the brightly streaked slope.” This image was taken Aug. 19. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
2015 may be shaping up to be one of the biggest years in deep space exploration’s history, with historic milestones achieved by several spacecraft including Rosetta, Curiosity, and New Horizons. While the world was enthralled by New Horizons’ Pluto flyby during the summer months, another spacecraft with otherworldly targets quietly maneuvered to its third orbit, reaching it in mid-August.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is currently delivering its closest views of Ceres yet as the spacecraft is settling into its High Altitude Mapping Orbit (HAMO). In addition, the Dawn team recently released a video revealing what it looks like to “cruise” over the dwarf planet, which is the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Continue reading A Deeper Understanding: Dawn Reaches Third Science Orbit, Shows Closest View of Ceres Yet
The Zvezda (upper) and Zarya (lower) modules provided the critical cornerstone for early International Space Station (ISS) operations. Fifteen years ago, this week, STS-106 resumed work on the stalled construction effort. Photo Credit: NASA
Fifteen years ago, this week, a space shuttle flight which very nearly didn’t happen, happened. In early 2000, the initial elements of the International Space Station (ISS)—which at that time comprised just two components, the U.S.-built Unity Node-1, with Pressurized Mating Adapters (PMAs) at both ends, and the Russian-built Zarya control module—had been in orbit for a little over a year, but further assembly had stalled, due to delays in launching Russia’s Zvezda service module. The latter would serve as the primary control center and living quarters for the station’s early long-duration crews, but had suffered from years of funding shortfalls and its launch had been pushed back yet further by a pair of Proton-K booster failures in July and October 1999. Not until all problems were resolved would Russia commit to launching Zvezda … and until that happened, no other ISS elements could fly. As 2000 dawned, that left the fledgling station in a critical condition.
Continue reading ‘Six Months, Instead of Twelve’: 15 Years Since STS-106 (Part 1)
Boeing’s CST-100 “Starliner” spacecraft is depicted here climbing to orbit. The company will begin flying astronauts to and from the International Space Station for NASA as soon as 2017. Image Credit: Boeing
NASA and Boeing unveiled the company’s new spacecraft processing facility at a grand opening event at Kennedy Space Center in Florida this afternoon, revealing the new name of their CST-100 crew capsule: Starliner. The old space shuttle orbiter processing hangar has been transformed to support the next generation of low-Earth orbit human spaceflight, and work is well underway building a Starliner pathfinder test article to certify the vehicle’s design before putting astronauts onboard for flights to and from the International Space Station (ISS) in the next couple years.
“One hundred years ago we were on the dawn of the commercial aviation era and today, with the help of NASA, we’re on the dawn of a new commercial space era,” said Boeing’s John Elbon, vice president and general manager of Space Exploration. “It’s been such a pleasure to work hand-in-hand with NASA on this commercial crew development, and when we look back 100 years from this point, I’m really excited about what we will have discovered.”
Continue reading Boeing’s New CST-100 ‘Starliner’ Processing Facility Taking Shape at KSC
Expedition 44’s Scott Kelly juggles fresh fruit, delivered recently aboard the Progress M-28M resupply craft. Kelly is now almost halfway through his year-long mission. Photo Credit: NASA
Tomorrow (Saturday, 5 September), the first human in history to command as many as five long-duration missions to an Earth-circling space station will hand over the reins of the International Space Station (ISS) to the first American ever to helm the orbital outpost on two occasions. Russia’s Gennadi Padalka, who earlier this year surpassed fellow cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev as the world’s most seasoned spacefarer, with a cumulative 2.4 years of his life spent away from the Home Planet, has also already secured another record as the first person to command four discrete ISS expeditions. Shaking his hand in what is bound to be an emotional change-of-command ceremony will be the incoming Expedition 45 Commander, U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly. According to NASA, the ceremony is due to be broadcast on NASA TV at 2:40 p.m. EDT Saturday. In so doing, Kelly—who, together with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, is currently 160 days into a projected 340-day stay aboard the ISS—will command the station through the next two increments, with Expedition 45 due to transition into Expedition 46 in mid-December. In the meantime, three new crew members were due to arrive at the ISS today (Friday, 4 September), two of whom will fly through next weekend, before returning to Earth with Padalka early on 12 September, whilst the other joins Kornienko and Kelly for the remainder of their long voyage, which is due to end in March 2016.
Continue reading Kelly to Become First Two-Time US Space Station Commander
Artist’s impression of the Super-Earth-type exoplanet HD 85512 b. As evidenced by the results of a new study, these rocky exoplanets, which are though to be similar to Earth, could have a different internal chemistry instead. Image Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser/Nick Risinger
The steady stream of terrestrial exoplanet discoveries that have come from NASA’s Kepler mission, as well as other ground- and space-based observatories in recent years, have greatly expanded our knowledge and understanding regarding the variety of our galaxy’s planetary population. Furthermore, the discovery of so-called “Earth-analog” worlds (many of which have been characterised as potentially habitable, like Kepler-452b) have created the impression that they could more or less be crude copies of our home planet. Despite the promising prospects that this might be the case for some of them, there are many unknowns still remaining about several of the basic properties of these exoplanets, like their masses, densities, and overall chemical compositions. A new study comes to shed more light to these unknowns, by showing that rocky exoplanets could have internal compositions that are greatly different from Earth’s, which could in turn lead them to exhibit entirely different planetary environments than that of Earth.
Continue reading Interiors of Rocky Exoplanets Might Be Different Than Earth’s, According to New Study