Elon Musk’s SpaceX hinted that it could potentially launch commercial payloads using Starship as early as 2021, and last year, NASA selected a modified crew-rated Starship system as one of three potential lunar landing system design concepts to receive funding for a 10-month-long initial design phase for their Artemis program. The one thing we haven’t seen is what the interior of this spacecraft looks like, that is until now. Read more for a video that previews what the crew quarters may look like.
Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, could have a sea of liquid methane that is at least 1,000-feet deep. Called Kraken Mare, this massive sea is estimated to be nearly the size of all five Great Lakes combined, and represents a model environment of a possible atmosphere of early Earth. Titan uses solar light, which is approximately 100 times less intense than on Earth, to constantly convert methane in the atmosphere into ethane, thus completely depleting Titan’s surface stores. Read more for two videos and additional information.
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite has discovered TOI 561-b, which orbits the TOI-561 star system. This planet is approximately 50% larger than Earth, but takes half the time to orbit its star due to its close proximity. What kind of life could survive there? Well, the kind that can survive an estimated average surface temperature of over 2,000 degrees Kelvin, but it might have been a different story in the past. Read more for a video and additional information.
NASA successfully hot fired all four engines on the massive Space Launch System core stage for the Artemis I rocket that will travel to the moon at the end 2021, but they were cut after a minute into the planned eight-minute test. The original goal was to simulate the thrust the Space Launch System rocket’s core stage, which generates 1.6 million pounds burning through more than 700,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Read more for a video and additional information.
NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance is set to hit the surface of the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021, and in addition to collecting stunning images as well as rock samples, it will also record some sounds. This rover comes equipped with microphones, which will mainly consist of the rover at work, wind and other ambient noise. One thing to note is that the same sound on Earth would be slightly different on Mars because of its atmosphere, which is only 1% as dense as ours. Read more for a previous sound sample from Mars and additional information.
Scientists from the Finnish Meteorological Institute envision a permanent “megasatellite settlement” orbiting Ceres, which is a large asteroid and dwarf planet in the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter. When completed, it could not only function as a human habitat, but as a base for further exploration of the cosmos. Materials would be sourced directly from Ceres itself from mining operations, while its abundance of nitrogen may eventually lead to the creation of an Earth-like atmosphere. Read more for two videos and additional information.
Photo credit: NASA
Mexico’s Popocatépetl volcano is one of the country’s most active volcanoes and has been erupting since January 2005, with low-intensity emissions of gas, steam, and ash daily. The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured this amazing image of a plume rising from the volcano on January 2, 2021. A few days later, the Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) observed a volcanic ash plume that rose to 21,000 feet above the volcano. Read more for a video and additional information.
NASA has partnered with Houston-based Axiom Space to develop a commercial habitat to the International Space Station and begin constructing an orbiting complex that could eventually replace the international research outpost. This project would connect a commercial module to the forward port on the ISS Harmony module by the end of 2024. To achieve this goal, Axiom is collaborating with SpaceX to send a private astronauts for short stays on the ISS by the end of this year. Read more for a video, additional pictures and information.
Elon Musk firmly believes in Carl Sagan’s vision that humans should eventually colonize another planet to avoid another major extinction event. To be more specific, Sagan once said that we “live in the middle of a shooting gallery with thousands of asteroids in our path that we haven’t even discovered yet. So, let’s be at least a two-planet species, as a backup plan.” Michio Kaku agrees with Musk’s plan of becoming a two-planet species. Read more for a video of the interview and additional information.
Valles Marineris is currently the largest known canyon in the Solar System and it cuts a wide swath across the face of Mars. This grand valley extends over 3,000 kilometers long, spans as much as 600 kilometers across, and delves as much as 8 kilometers deep. For comparison, the Grand Canyon in Arizona spans 800 kilometers long, 30 kilometers across, and 1.8 kilometers deep. It is unknown how Valles Marineris formed, although a leading hypothesis holds that it started as a crack billions of years ago as the planet cooled. Read more to see two new images captured by NASA’s HiRise camera and for additional information.