Leonard Nimoy’s death this week hasn’t just hit the entertainment world and Verge staffers hard. NASA astronaut Terry Virts tweeted a simple Spock tribute yesterday while aboard the International Space Station.

Virts’ Vulcan salute is a symbol of Star Trek's lasting influence on space exploration.

"Leonard Nimoy was an inspiration to multiple generations of engineers, scientists, astronauts, and other space explorers," NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. “As Mr. Spock, he made science and technology important to the story, while never failing to show, by example, that it is the people around us who matter most.”

Happy birthday to the Canadian Space Agency from all of us at Penny4NASA!

For nearly as long as the agency has been active, NASA’s various activities on the ground, in low-Earth orbit, and beyond, have been rooted in well-built relationships with other nations around the world who share their drive for knowledge and purpose beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

While competition drove early activities, we’ve witnessed an increasing shift towards a more collaborative and shared presence in space with the construction of space station Mir and the International Space Station (ISS). One of NASA’s 22 partners actively part of the International Space Station program has been their neighbor to the north, the Canadian Space Agency.

Since its creation on March 1, 1989, the Canadian Space Agency has been a dynamic partner that has contributed both astronauts, including Col. Chris Hadfield, and technological contributions like Canadarm on the Space Shuttle, and Canadarm 2 and the rest of the Mobile Servicing Unit aboard the International Space Station.

Future projects for the Canadian Space Agency include but are not limited to the RADARSAT Constellation Mission, a three-spacecraft fleet of Earth observation satellites scheduled for a 2018 launch, and the Polar Communication and Weather Mission, which involves the planned launch of two satellites in polar orbit to provide improved weather and communications capabilities in the high Arctic.

Canada has continued to be a vital member of the ISS program throughout the past ten years and continues to play a major role in space exploration as a central partner of NASA.

Read more about the Canadian Space Agency:

Read more about the RADARSAT Constellation Mission:

Read more about the Polar Communication and Weather Mission:

The Large Cloud of Magellan

Credit & CopyrightRobert Gendler

Explanation: The 16th century Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan and his crew had plenty of time to study the southern sky during the first circumnavigation of planet Earth. As a result, two fuzzy cloud-like objects easily visible to southern hemisphere skygazers are known as the Clouds of Magellan, now understood to be satellite galaxies of our much larger, spiral Milky Way galaxy. About 160,000 light-years distant in the constellation Dorado, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is seen here in a remarkably detailed, 10 frame mosaic image. Spanning about 30,000 light-years or so, it is the most massive of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies and is the site of the closest supernova in modern times, SN 1987A. The prominent reddish knot near the bottom is 30 Doradus, or the Tarantula Nebula, a giant star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud. To identify the location of the supernova and navigate your way around the many star clusters and nebulae of the LMC, just consult this well-labeled view.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2015 March 1

Inside the Coma Cluster of Galaxies

Almost every object in the above photograph is a galaxy. The Coma Cluster of Galaxies pictured above is one of the densest clusters known - it contains thousands of galaxies. Each of these galaxies houses billions of stars - just as our own Milky Way Galaxy does. Although nearby when compared to most other clusters, light from the Coma Cluster still takes hundreds of millions of years to reach us. In fact, the Coma Cluster is so big it takes light millions of years just to go from one side to the other! The above mosaic of images of a small portion of Coma was taken in unprecedented detail in 2006 by the Hubble Space Telescope to investigate how galaxies in rich clusters form and evolve. Most galaxies in Coma and other clusters are ellipticals, although some imaged here are clearly spirals. The spiral galaxy on the upper left of the above image can also be found as one of the bluer galaxies on the upper left of this wider field image. In the background thousands of unrelated galaxies are visible far across the universe.


As humans, we are born to be pioneers. Every dream and wanderlust is carried with the oxygen in our blood cells straight to our brains, planting seeds that will blossom into new ideas to take us further. As a species, we’ve conquered our native frontiers; the land and the sea, for thousands of years. But we’ve barely scratched the atmosphere (or lack thereof) of the final frontier – of outer space. Our space programs are less than 70 years old. We haven’t been to the moon in almost 50.

But everything is about to change.

Space agencies are now having serious talks and making serious plans for a manned mission to Mars. Up until recently, these were always far-off projections by government agencies like NASA; estimates of 25 to 30 years before humans touched Martian soil first-hand. NASA helped start it all, they will always have a place in my heart. But we are witnessing the birth of a new age in space exploration, and without the strain of government red tape. Private companies, specifically Space Exploration Technologies, also known as SpaceX, are projecting to get us to Mars in as little as a decade. And as many outlets have reported, CEO Elon Musk even plans on the colossal task of bringing internet access to this Martian colony.

The main point of interest here, however, isn’t just these historic accomplishments themselves; it’s the fact that they may be fulfilled by a private organization first as opposed to a government one. While many explorers in the past have discovered new places by way of trips sanctioned by kings, there are just as many who have taken giant leaps for mankind by their own accord. Elon Musk furthered that with Tesla motors (creating the most effective electric vehicles thus far) and now with SpaceX and their ambitious plans. I used to think that we’d have a human on mars by the time I’m 50 years old – but if SpaceX’s plans go accordingly, there could be a second generation colony of “Martians” already planning the next trip from the red planet itself.

by Steve Weidmann
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Approach and Landing Test

(A preview of a new series on distancetomars, 135 in 135, following the entire Shuttle Program from start to finish.  135 in 135 will be posted daily, for all your Shuttle needs)

Orbiter: OV-101, Enterprise. Enterprise was built in 1976 by Rockwell International, serving as a testbed for atmospheric flight.  Enterprise was built without engines and without a heat shield, and thus never flew in space.

Mission: ALT-15, fourth free flight of the Space Shuttle Enterprise. The mission was to test flight characteristics of the orbiter, simulating a standard landing profile while returning from orbit.  The Orbiter was carried into the air by a modified Boeing 747 and then released to glide back down to a lake bed runway at Dryden.  During ALT-15, Enterprise’s tail cone was removed and replaced with mockup engines and Orbital Maneuver System pods, assuming a full operational configuration.

Launch Date/Location: October 12, 1977. Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California

Crew: Joe Engle (X-15 pilot), Richard Truly (first flight)

Payload: No payload, atmospheric test flight.

Landing Date/Location: October 12, 1977 (2m 34s flight time).  Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California