NASA's SOFIA Observatory Makes First Direct Detection of Water in Sunlit Lunar Soil

Illustration depicting water molecules trapped in lunar soil, along with SOFIA onboard a modified Boeing 747SP jetliner. Image Credit: NASA/Daniel Rutterit

The Moon is generally thought of as a very dry place, with no surface water or even water vapor clouds. Nothing but arid, dusty regolith and rocks. That’s true for the most part, although there are deposits of water ice that have been found lurking in the permanent shadows of some craters near the lunar poles.

But now, NASA has confirmed something that previous studies had hinted at but not fully verified: water has been detected on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This means there may be a lot more water than previously thought, locked in the lunar soil, over much more of the Moon’s surface (although not global, according to the study).



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ULA Aims for Nov 3 Launch of Atlas V, NROL-101

After three launchless months, United Launch Alliance (ULA) plans to return to flight for its fifth mission of 2020 as early as 3 November, with a just-after-sunset mission by its Mighty Atlas V from storied Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.



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OSIRIS-REx's 'Cup Runneth Over' with Overflowing Asteroid Samples

Series of three images showing that the sample collector head on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is full of rocks and dust collected from the surface of the asteroid Bennu. They also reveal that some particles are escaping into space since the sampler’s mylar flap lid (the black bulge on the left inside the ring) is wedged slightly open by material. Photo Credit: NASA

Last Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully “touched” the asteroid Bennu and attempted to collect a sample of the rocky regolith and dust on its surface to later bring back to Earth. This was the first time this kind of asteroid sample-collection has ever been done by a U.S. mission.



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Clickety-Clack: Remembering the Misfortune of Gemini VI, OTD in 1965

Stafford (left) and Schirra walk down the Pad 19 ramp after the GATV-5002 failure, 55 years ago today. Photo Credit: NASA

“Everything’s going clickety-clack,” reported CBS news correspondent Charles von Fremd on the morning of 25 October 1965. “We should be launching on the hour.” But for Gemini VI astronauts Wally Schirra and Tom Stafford, their mission would not go well that day.



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SpaceX Flies 100th Successful Falcon Mission, Approaches 1,000 Starlinks

SpaceX launches its 100th successful Falcon mission with Starlink-14 from Cape Canaveral AFS, FL on Oct 24, 2020. Photo: Jeff Seibert for AmericaSpace

Seven weeks since its most recent launch, the veteran B1060 Falcon 9 core took flight again Saturday to deliver its second 60-strong batch of Starlink internet communications satellites to low-Earth orbit. Counting two successful Falcon 1 missions in September 2008 and July 2009, a further 95 successful Falcon 9 missions since June 2010 and three successful Falcon Heavy missions since February 2018, today’s launch marked the 100th successful Falcon-class mission by SpaceX since September 2008.

Despite a scrubbed launch attempt on Thursday, SpaceX threaded the needle and finally got their bird airborne from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on time at 11:31 a.m. EDT. Launching only 51 days, 2 hours and 45 minutes after its most recent mission, B1060 narrowly missed securing a new record for the reusability and turnaround of a Falcon 9 first stage. But it did set a new record for the shortest amount of time it has taken a Falcon 9 core to fly three times.



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New Cargo Dragon Set for December Launch, NASA Announces

The CRS2 Cargo Dragon, to be flown first on CRS-21 in December, is physically similar to the Crew Dragon which lofted Demo-2 astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken earlier this year. Photo Credit: Elon Musk/Twitter

With the Expedition 64 team now formally in charge aboard the International Space Station (ISS), NASA has announced that the first uncrewed visiting vehicle of their increment will launch from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, no sooner than December.



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Cassidy, Crewmates Safely Home After 196-Day Station Expedition

With the completion of Expedition 63, Chris Cassidy is now the United States’ fifth most experienced astronaut, with almost 378 days across his three space missions. Photo Credit: NASA

As the International Space Station (ISS) approaches 20 years of continuous habitation in a few days’ time, Expedition 63 officially came to an end at 8:54 a.m. local time on 22 October (10:54 p.m. EDT on the 21st) when Soyuz MS-16 touched down safely on the barren steppe of central Kazakhstan. Veteran NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and his Russian crewmates Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner wrapped up an event-filled increment which had lasted 195 days, 18 hours and 49 minutes, traveled in excess of 83 million miles (133.5 million km) and circled the Home Planet over 3,100 times.



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Atlas V for USSF-8 Mission Arrives in Florida, As ULA Manifest Shapes Up

The Atlas V Common Core Booster (CCB) for the USSF-8 mission is offloaded from RocketShip earlier this week. Photo Credit: ULA

After almost three launchless months for United Launch Alliance (ULA), and one of its slowest years on record in terms of overall flight cadence, the Centennial, Colo.-headquartered organization has welcomed rocket hardware for a critical U.S. Space Force mission, targeted for early next spring. ULA CEO Tory Bruno announced yesterday that a 107-foot-long (32-meter) Atlas V Common Core Booster (CCB) and 41-foot-long (12.6-meter) Centaur upper stage had arrived safely at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard the company’s RocketShip transport vessel after a journey from the factory in Decatur, Ala.



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Success! NASA's OSIRIS-REx 'Touches' Asteroid Bennu, Gathers Samples for Return to Earth in 2023

Artist’s illustration of OSIRIS-REx collecting a sample from Bennu on Oct. 20, 2020. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

History was made yesterday as NASA’s OSIRIS-REx became the first U.S. spacecraft to successfully retrieve a sample of rock and dust from an asteroid, which will be later returned to Earth.



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SLS Mobile Launcher Rolls to Launch Pad 39B for Testing

The Mobile Launcher (ML), atop Crawler Transporter (CT)-2, moves up the incline to Pad 39B. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert for AmericaSpace.com

As the Space Launch System (SLS) core stage for Artemis-1 approaches the end of “Green Run” testing at the Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Miss., attention shifted to Florida earlier today as NASA drove its gigantic Mobile Launcher (ML) out to historic Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for a series of tests related to late countdown operations and a top-to-bottom “washdown” to remove foreign object debris.



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