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.
The United Launch Alliance is set to launch a satellite aboard one of the last single-core Delta IV rockets tonight, and it will officially be the 39th launch of the Delta IV since its first in 2002. The rocket will be carrying WGS-10, a military communications satellite, with the window opening at 6:56 p.m. and remaining open until 9:05 p.m. This satellite is the latest part of a constellation of highly-capable communications satellites that serve the armed forces of the United States and its allies, carrying a Ka-band and X-band transponders with a total 8.088 gigahertz of bandwidth – offering downlink speeds of up to 11 gigabits per second. Read more for the livestream video, which begins in approximately 2-hours from the time of this post.
Toyota and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced Tuesday they had agreed to cooperate in developing a manned lunar rover that runs on fuel cell technologies. The rover is still early in development, but the concept images reveal a six-wheeled vehicle that looks like an armored personnel carrier. “As an engineer, there is no greater joy than being able to participate in a lunar project by way of Toyota’s car-making. Being allowed to be a member of ‘Team Japan’, we would like to take up the challenge of space,” said Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi. Read more for a video, additional pictures and information.
It’s official, SpaceX’s Dragon V2 capsule, the first human-rated commercial spacecraft to dock at the International Space Station, departed early Friday morning and later splashed down into the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 200 miles from Florida’s coast, marking a new era of spaceflight. Ripley, an anthropomorphic test device in a flight suit, was onboard the spacecraft for the maiden voyage, complete with sensors to help better understand what astronauts will experience when they blast off in the capsule. Read more for the splash down footage and additional information.
Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft captured a stunning selfie on its historic journey to the Moon. The photo shows the robotic lander looking back at Earth from a distance of 23,363.5 miles. It was launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX on February 21 and is projected to reach the lunar surface on April 11. Read More for a video about its mission and additional information.
Photo credit: Andrew McCarthy
Photographer and astronomy enthusiast Andrew McCarthy extracted color data from 150,000 moon photos to show all the different colors of the minerals found on its surface. “The color was already in that picture, hidden behind the glare of the moon’s albedo, and represents the mineral content of our moon. While my previous images showed you the detail you could see if your eyes were sharper, this one shows you what the moon could look like if our eyes and brain were much more sensitive to color,” said McCarthy. Read more for a cropped shot that really makes the colors stand out.
Photo credit: Daily Mail
China’s first Mars simulation base has just opened to the public, and it’s located in Mangya city, in Northwest China’s Qinghai Province. Many consider Qinqhai’s red rock area the most Martian-like place on Earth, with its natural features, landscape and climate. Visitors can try and solve problems they might face on the Red Planet, such as planting potatoes for food and using solar technology for power generation. The base covers an area of 53,330 square meters, and can accommodate up to 60 people in its capsules / tents. Construction began in June 2018 at a cost of about 150 million yuan ($22.3 million). Read more for an aerial view video of the base.
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.
SpaceX and NASA’s first experimental launch, called Demo-1, of Dragon V2, a commercial spaceship designed to fly astronauts into orbit, is scheduled to blast off aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday at 2:49 a.m. ET from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The test capsule won’t have a crew on board, but it will transport a dummy in full gear and cargo to the the ISS. If this is a success, SpaceX may launch its first astronauts into space as soon as July. Read more for another video and additional information.