Space exploration news


Behold: The first flower grown in space

Space. The empty black vacuum became a little bit brighter on Sunday after Scott Kelly, a U.S. astronaut aboard the International Space Station, tweeted an image of the first flower ever grown in space. The flower is part of a larger experiment on the potential for vegetation in low-gravity environments, with the ultimate objective to grow vegetables. Kelly tweeted out a pretty funny Matt Damon joke too.

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Ethereal views of Jupiter’s north and south pole

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has sent back images providing never-before-seen perspective on Jupiter’s north (1st image) and south pole (2nd image). The JunoCam instrument acquired the views on August 27, 2016.

According to NASA, the download of 6 MB of data collected during the 6-hour transit, from above Jupiter’s north pole to below its south pole, took 1.5 days. While analysis of this first data collection is ongoing, some unique discoveries have already made themselves visible.

“First glimpse of Jupiter’s north pole, and it looks like nothing we have seen or imagined before,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “It’s bluer in color up there than other parts of the planet, and there are a lot of storms. There is no sign of the latitudinal bands or zone and belts that we are used to – this image is hardly recognizable as Jupiter. We’re seeing signs that the clouds have shadows, possibly indicating that the clouds are at a higher altitude than other features.”

The down under is full of rotating storms of various sizes, similar to giant versions of terrestrial hurricanes, as well. You probably remember this image from the Cassini spacecraft, which observed most of the polar region as it flew past Jupiter on its way to Saturn in 2000. However, the south pole has never been seen from this viewpoint.

What’s more from this treasure trove of news is that along with JunoCam, all eight of Juno’s science instruments were collecting data. The Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM), supplied by the Italian Space Agency, acquired some remarkable images of Jupiter at its north and south polar regions in infrared wavelengths. Here’s the southern aurora:

“These first infrared views of Jupiter’s north and south poles are revealing warm and hot spots that have never been seen before. No other instruments, both from Earth or space, have been able to see the southern aurora. Now, with JIRAM, we see that it appears to be very bright and well-structured. The high level of detail in the images will tell us more about the aurora’s morphology and dynamics,” said Alberto Adriani, JIRAM co-investigator from Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali, Rome.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS
Original articles: 1, 2

Alert - Incoming Space Junk!

On 13 November, a piece of space debris will crash into Earth. The mysterious man-made object, which experts believe is the remnants of one of the Apollo missions, will hurtle into the Indian Ocean about 65km off the southern tip of Sri Lanka at 6.15am local time.

What do we know about it?

The object, dubbed WT1190F ( scientists can be funny and historical sometimes! ), is only a couple feet in diameter and not very dense. That means it’s probably man-made — likely a leftover piece of a rocket that remained in space instead of falling back down to Earth.

Light object in the center is WT1190F as observed by the University of Hawaii 2.2-meter telescope.

Will it affect you?

Yes and No! The ESA announced that object poses very little risk to anyone on the ground. Most, if not all, of it will disintegrate as it passes through our atmosphere. If anything’s left of the object, it will harmlessly fall into the Indian Ocean about 60 miles off the Sri Lankan coast. 

But, To behold the reentry would definitely be a treat.

Why is this exciting news?

Scientists have data only about a few pieces of man-made debris in space and none of them are supposed to return to earth anytime soon.

But this space debris will give them an opportunity to collect data and study how space objects fall back down to our planet for the first time. 

Wanna watch it live? Click here

PC: msichicago, ESA ,

Source: ESA, Nature


The numbers are in!!  To date, our cameras on Cassini have taken ~344K images at Saturn and ~377K images since launch in 1997. What a legacy!

Taken just two days ago: Cracked and scarred Dione (top), w/ the rings and our favorite geysering moon, Enceladus, in the distance. And in a closeup from only 321 miles above the surface (bottom), a longing look at Dione’s wispy terrain, which we thought in Voyager days would be extruded ice but is not.

Cassini’s final Dione flyby will be in 2 months’ time on August 17. We are now in the end game. Prepare yourselves for the final goodbye …

More info on today’s release at
Private company wins U.S. clearance to fly to the moon

A Florida-based company won U.S. government permission on Wednesday to send a robotic lander to the moon next year, the firm’s founder said, marking the first time the United States has cleared a private space mission to fly beyond Earth’s orbit.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s unprecedented go-ahead for the Moon Express mission also sets a legal and regulatory framework for a host of other commercial expeditions to the moon, asteroids and Mars.

As approved by the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, the privately held Moon Express, headquartered in Cape Canaveral, plans to fly a suitcase-sized lander to the moon for a two-week mission in 2017, said the company founder and chief executive Bob Richards.

The spacecraft will carry a number of science experiments and some commercial cargo on its one-way trip to the lunar surface, including cremated human remains, and will beam back pictures and video to Earth, the company said.

Before now, no government agency was recognized as having authority to oversee private missions beyond Earth’s orbit, though a 1967 international treaty holds the United States responsible for any flights into space by its non-government entities.

So far, only government agencies have flown spacecraft beyond the orbit of the Earth.

To address the conundrum, the FAA, which already exercises jurisdiction over commercial rocket launches in the United States, led an interagency review of the Moon Express proposal, which included steps the company would take to ensure compliance with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

Cassini Gets New Views of Titan's Land of Lakes.

External image

With the sun now shining down over the north pole of Saturn’s moon Titan, a little luck with the weather, and trajectories that put the spacecraft into optimal viewing positions, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has obtained new pictures of the liquid methane and ethane seas and lakes that…

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This morning, a plucky NASA spacecraft has entered the orbit of one of the oddest little worlds in our solar system.

Ceres is round like a planet, but really small. Its total surface would cover just a third of the United States. And there’s still a lot of work to be done in order to learn how Ceres fits into our solar system.

NASA Probe Reaches Orbit Around Dwarf Planet

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA


NASA’s laser propulsion system could send ships to Mars in just days

It might sound like science fiction, but we already know how to make objects move at near light speed. Physicists do it all the time inside particle accelerators, where they accelerate particles to relativistic speeds just a small fraction below the speed of light (about 186,000 miles per second).

But when we try to reach these speeds on a macro scale, we run into all kinds of problems. Now researchers are saying a new kind of laser-based propulsion would eliminate the need for fuel and could accelerate spacecraft up to 26% of the speed of light. At that blistering pace, a tiny space probe could get to Mars in just 30 minutes. The technology to make it happen already exists.

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SCIENCE: There was excitement today as NASA announced that Edward Burns was the first dickhead big enough to be visible from space.

“This is amazing news.” confirmed Dr. Juan Kerr, Pointless Letters science consultant. “A dickhead big enough and obvious enough to be visible to the crew of the ISS as they pass over. This will redefine our understanding of just how big a dickhead someone can be.”


And here they are! The first hi resolution images released by NASA from yesterday’s flawless flyby of Pluto.

The close-up is a view of a region on Pluto at the bottom of ‘the heart’, the feature seen on the pre-approach image posted on July 14, yesterday, at 7:23 am. It reveals a smooth area in the upper left, a hummocky region in the lower right, and in between mountains that are 11,000 feet high! The only material on Pluto that is strong enough to build mountains is water ice. The other volatiles, nitrogen and methane, which are escaping Pluto as vapor, are apparently no more than a thin veneer. This image has a resolution of ~ 1 mile/pixel.

The other image is Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, about ½ the size of Pluto, seen at an image scale of ~ 3 miles/pixel. It surprises in several ways: a long chasm reminiscent of Saturn’s moon Tethys, a variable surface appearance, and very few craters that indicate a relatively youthful surface.

How mind-blowing it is that we are today discussing processes operating at 32x farther from the Sun than is the Earth, and over 3x farther away than Saturn. And yesterday, it was just a dream.

Think about that! The Icy Mountains of Pluto Charon’s Surprising Youthful and Varied Terrain

MESSENGER, the space probe that discovered water on Mercury and has been circling the planet for four years, will take a swan dive at the end of the month in hopes of discovering something about weathering on the surface.

According to, “the probe’s observations have helped scientists construct the best-ever maps of the planet, and MESSENGER confirmed that carbon-containing organic compounds and water ice exist inside the permanently shadowed craters near Mercury’s poles.”

But ground controllers will set MESSENGER up for a suicide mission with a final orbital correction on April 24.

The crash-landing will occur six days later on April 30, forming an impact crater on the Mercury (already the most-cratered planet in the Solar System).

Mercury Probe Set For Crash-Landing On April 30

Photo Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institute of Washington/NASA


Nasa just announced an incredible new planet found, how exciting!

Kepler 452b or Earth 2.0 :)

Unlike any other ever found!

* The first planet found that orbits the same type star as our sun (G star)

* The sun is a similar size to our own

* It is almost the same distance away from its sun as we are from ours

* It has a 385 day orbit, only 20 days more than ours

* The planet is 1.5 billion years older than our own, so evolution is promising in the right conditions

So excited right now!


Photographer Benedict Redgrove Given Unprecedented Access to NASA Technology

Six years in the making, Redgrove captures everything from the space shuttle Atlantis and Vehicle Assembly Building, to the new Orion Crew Module, robot Valkyrie R5 and Boeing’s Starliner capsule. In fact the project is still ongoing, as it’s meant to culminate with the launch of the new SLS rocket in 2018. #Love it!


This week, Cassini executed its 21st close flyby of Enceladus … the last very close encounter and the second to the last of the mission … flying within 30 miles of the surface and right through the center of the plume.

The results from the chemical analyses of the plume’s constituents and the thermal measurements of the moon’s tiger stripe fracture province will not be in hand for some time.

So, in the meantime, amaze yourselves with these images that we collected yesterday along the way, and remind yourselves that what has become so familiar over the last decade is actually something quite strange and alien.

Enjoy! Enceladus Flyby ‘Rev 224′
Somehow, Canada's Newest Spacebound Astronaut Seems Overqualified
David Saint-Jacques is a medical doctor, engineer and astrophysicist.

David Saint-Jacques, a medical doctor, engineer and astrophysicist, will be the next Canadian in space. In November 2018, he’ll blast off aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, spending six months on the International Space Station, according to an announcement Monday at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa.

Saint-Jacques, who comes from Saint-Lambert, Quebec, will be the ninth Canadian in space, and the first since Chris Hadfield commanded the ISS (he came back home in 2013). The Quebec doctor was chosen as an astronaut in 2009, along with Jeremy Hansen, a former fighter pilot from London, Ontario.

As a triple threat, Saint-Jacques will be able to do all kinds of experiments and exercises in space, although the specifics haven’t yet been announced.

“The doctor in me is eager to conduct experiments and experience first-hand the effects of microgravity on my body, the engineer in me is eager to operate Canadarm2, the astrophysicist in me is eager to look at the stars while floating in my space suit, and of course, the adventurer in me, he’s just eager,” he told the crowd of school kids and media gathered inside a theatre at the museum for the announcement, with swooping airplanes just outside.

Saint-Jacques said that he was elated when he learned he was going to the ISS. “To me, it’s great to continue on that amazing legacy we’ve built over decades.”

Continue Reading.

NASA’s Hubble Spots Possible Water Plumes Erupting on Jupiter's Moon Europa

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have imaged what may be water vapor plumes erupting off the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. This finding bolsters other Hubble observations suggesting the icy moon erupts with high altitude water vapor plumes.

The observation increases the possibility that missions to Europa may be able to sample Europa’s ocean without having to drill through miles of ice.

“Europa’s ocean is considered to be one of the most promising places that could potentially harbor life in the solar system,” said Geoff Yoder, acting associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “These plumes, if they do indeed exist, may provide another way to sample Europa’s subsurface.”

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Imagine peering out the window of your Saturn-bound spaceship and seeing this: A graceful, calming crescent floating beneath the strike and frightening enormity of a gleaming disk of icy debris. It could make one wonder: Did an alien civilization create this marvel?

It’s yet another soul-stirring glory delivered to us here on Earth by our robotic emissary stationed at the ringed planet.

Enjoy! Crescent Tethys and Rings