NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will return to Earth in 2023 with a sample of at least 60-grams from an asteroid named Bennu, and it has just made the first close-up observations. It discovered that it is ejecting particles from its surface and is much more rugged than expected. The material returned will allow scientists to learn more about the formation and evolution of the Solar System, its initial stages of planet formation, and the source of organic compounds that led to the formation of life on Earth. “The discovery of plumes is one of the biggest surprises of my scientific career. And the rugged terrain went against all of our predictions. Bennu is already surprising us, and our exciting journey there is just getting started,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Read more for another video and additional information.
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has detected traces of moving water molecules on the moon’s surface. These water molecules were observed moving on the day-side of the moon and scientists believe it will act as a catalyst for humanity to establish a colony on the lunar surface. “These results aid in understanding the lunar water cycle and will ultimately help us learn about the accessibility of water that can be used by humans in future missions to the Moon. Lunar water can potentially be used by humans to make fuel or to use for radiation shielding or thermal management; if these materials do not need to be launched from Earth, that makes these future missions more affordable,” said Amanda Hendrix, the lead author of the study. Read more for a video and additional information.
NASA has captured for the first time images of supersonic shockwaves intersecting from two jets flying faster than the speed of sound approximately 30 feet apart. They were made during testing of upgraded equipment capable of photographing high-quality images of shockwaves, or the rapid pressure changes produced when a plane flies at supersonic speeds – faster than 767 mph. This new imaging system will be used to test their X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane, which is touted to fly faster than the speed of sound with a quiet supersonic rumbles instead of a boom. Read more to see another image captured with this new imaging system.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule successfully docked with the ISS at 5:51 a.m. ET, approximately 27-hours after blasting into orbit from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Dragon V2 connected with a docking port on the station’s Harmony module as it cruised 250 miles over the Pacific Ocean. “Congratulations to all the teams on a successful docking,” said NASA astronaut Anne McClain who radioed Mission Control from aboard the space station. It will now spend the next five days attached to ISS and return to Earth in an Atlantic Ocean splashdown on Friday morning (March 8). Read more to see astronauts inspecting the unit.
At a post-launch press conference earlier this morning, Elon Musk said “I’d be happy to go on the vehicle. I think it’s a good design,” of the Crew Dragon spaceship. There were no humans onboard this time, but the space capsule was carrying 400 lbs of cargo and a female crash-test dummy named “Ripley” to the International Space Station, where it’s scheduled to arrive around 3:30 a.m. ET before autonomously docking at 6 a.m. ET. Read more for two more videos, launch included, and additional information.
It’s been roughly 8-years since the last manned US space flight, but NASA and SpaceX are set to send the Dragon V2, a new space capsule for astronauts, on Saturday at 2:49 am ET (0749 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The capsule will arrive at the International Space Station by Sunday, with a return to Earth set for next Friday. Read more to watch both the SpaceX and NASA live streams.
At first glance, the top image may appear to be from a Vincent van Gogh painting, but it’s actually of the planet Jupiter, as captured by NASA’s Juno Spacecraft. It was captured 8,000 miles from the cloud tops during its 18th close flyby of Jupiter on February 12, and these atmospheric features in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere showcase clouds that swirl around a circle in a jet stream region called Jet N6. Read more for another video and additional information.
Photo credit: Drew Feustel via Peta Pixel
Auto enthusiast and NASA astronaut Drew Feustel was also fortunate enough to also be commanding the International Space Station in 2018, so he decided to photograph racetracks around the world with a Nikon DSLR in his free time. “I was always a racing fan, [I] followed IndyCar, Formula One, and MotoGP, and I still follow it to this day. I keep up on the series, the teams, and the drivers, and because I was a fan I spent time in space taking photos of the entire 2018 season—all of the race tracks […] On the race weekends, I would post the picture of the track, and then watch the race. That was kind of what I did as a hobby while I was up there,” said Feustel during an interview with Hot Rod Network. Read more to see them all.
Elon Musk’s shiny new SpaceX Starship is aiming for Mars, but we could see it aid in the construction of a moon base even sooner. “Starship will also be good for creating a base on the moon. We’ll probably have a base on the moon before going to Mars,” said Musk in an interview with Popular Mechanics published Monday. The stainless steel rocket is being built at the company’s facility near Brownsville, Texas, and a shorter test version is designed for low altitude “hop” flights, which will not reach orbit. Read more for another video and additional information.
This image was captured during New Horizon’s historic January 1 flyby of what’s informally known as Ultima Thule (2014 MU69), and is the sharpest view yet of this incredible, ancient object in the far reaches of the solar system. Photographed with a wide-angle Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) component of New Horizons’ Ralph instrument, this image was taken when the KBO (Kuiper Belt Object) was 4,200 miles from the spacecraft, at 05:26 UT (12:26 a.m. EST) on Jan. 1 – just seven minutes before closest approach. Read more for another video and additional information.