I was just watching star trek the motion picture for the first time ever (I liked it! it was slow but interesting! totally saw the ~~twist~~ coming from lightyears away but that was alright!), and you know how there’s this scene where they have the different enterprise evolutions drawings in the background: 

And I noticed this one in particular: 

This is the USS-Enterprise XCV-330, for those of you interested. 

So I thought “huh, that looks familiar, actually”. And it is, because quite recently NASA unveiled concept art for their first ever warp-capable ship (once they figure out how to do warp safely), and it looks like this: 

It’s called the IXS Enterprise. 

NASA once again confirmed for being giant nerds. 

Haunting the Cepheus Flare

(via APOD; Image Credit & Copyright: Thomas Lelu )

Spooky shapes seem to haunt this jeweled expanse, drifting through the night in the royal constellation Cepheus. Of course, the shapes are cosmic dust clouds faintly visible in dimly reflected starlight. Far from your own neighborhood on planet Earth, they lurk along the plane of the Milky Way at the edge of the Cepheus Flare molecular cloud complex some 1,200 light-years away. Over 2 light-years across and brighter than the other ghostly apparitions, vdB 141 or Sh2-136 is also known as the Ghost Nebula, seen at the right of the starry field of view. Within the nebula are the telltale signs of dense cores collapsing in the early stages of star formation.

‘Fight for Space’ is a documentary film that explains the economic and cultural benefits of human space exploration. This film additionally examines the historical political events that have led to the decline of NASA’s budget since 1968, and its struggle to return to the Moon and send humans to Mars. FIGHT FOR SPACE presents viewpoints from Astronauts, politicians and staff, scientists, former NASA officials, commercial space entrepreneurs, and many other individuals in the space community.

Why haven’t we gone back to the Moon in over 45 years? Why hasn’t NASA sent humans to Mars? What challenges have stopped us from achieving ambitious goals in space when technology is advancing so quickly on the ground? Through a series of interviews with top space industry experts, we answer these questions.

Today, with far less public interest in space exploration, NASA’s budget has been shrinking along with its ambitions in human spaceflight. The Space Launch System, scheduled to carry humans into space in 2018, is underfunded and lacks a clear goal. Fight for Space will examine future plans from NASA and other commercial endeavors.

The goal of this film is to present the arguments for and against, on why a robust and ambitious space program is good for the country and the world, by showing them the benefits that such a program would bring.

Filmed over the course of 4 years, Fight for Space is the product of thousands of Kickstarter supporters who believed that the exploration of space is worth fighting for. Over 60 interviews were conducted with astronauts, politicians, educators, historians, scientists, former NASA officials, commercial space entrepreneurs, and many other experts in the space community. It is a film like no other that tackles issues no other documentary has touched, featuring newly restored 35mm and 16mm footage from the National Archives NASA collection.

‘Fight for Space’ will debut at the DOC NYC film festival in the IFC Center on November 14 and 15 for its world premiere. 



New Horizons Returns Last Bits of 2015 Flyby Data to Earth

NASA’s New Horizons mission reached a major milestone this week when the last bits of science data from the Pluto flyby – stored on the spacecraft’s digital recorders since July 2015 – arrived safely on Earth.

Having traveled from the New Horizons spacecraft over 3.4 billion miles, or 5.5 billion kilometers (five hours, eight minutes at light speed), the final item – a segment of a Pluto-Charon observation sequence taken by the Ralph/LEISA imager – arrived at mission operations at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, at 5:48 a.m. EDT on Oct. 25. The downlink came via NASA’s Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia. It was the last of the 50-plus total gigabits of Pluto system data transmitted to Earth by New Horizons over the past 15 months.

“The Pluto system data that New Horizons collected has amazed us over and over again with the beauty and complexity of Pluto and its system of moons,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.  “There’s a great deal of work ahead for us to understand the 400-plus scientific observations that have all been sent to Earth. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do—after all, who knows when the next data from a spacecraft visiting Pluto will be sent?”

Because it had only one shot at its target, New Horizons was designed to gather as much data as it could, as quickly as it could – taking about 100 times more data on close approach to Pluto and its moons than it could have sent home before flying onward. The spacecraft was programmed to send select, high-priority datasets home in the days just before and after close approach, and began returning the vast amount of remaining stored data in September 2015.

“We have our pot of gold,” said Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman, of APL.

Bowman said the team will conduct a final data-verification review before erasing the two onboard recorders, and clearing space for new data to be taken during the New Horizons Kuiper Belt Extended Mission (KEM) that will include a series of distant Kuiper Belt object observations and a close encounter with a small Kuiper Belt object, 2014 MU69, on Jan. 1, 2019.

The Data Downlink Challenge

Why did it take more than a year for New Horizons to send back all of the data from the Pluto encounter? Take a minute to learn more about the challenge of sending data from over billions of miles.

Image: Artist’s illustration of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft transmitting data back to Earth.
    Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

A Giant Squid in the Flying Bat 
Explanation: Very faint but also very large on planet Earth’s sky, a giant Squid Nebula cataloged as Ou4, and Sh2-129 also known as the Flying Bat Nebula, are both caught in this cosmic scene toward the royal constellation Cepheus. Composed with almost 17 hours of narrowband image data, the telescopic field of view is 4 degrees or 8 Full Moons across. Discovered in 2011 by French astro-imager Nicolas Outters, the Squid Nebula’s alluring bipolar shape is distinguished here by the telltale blue-green emission from doubly ionized oxygen atoms. Though apparently completely surrounded by the reddish hydrogen emission region Sh2-129, the true distance and nature of the Squid Nebula have been difficult to determine. Still, a recent investigation suggests Ou4 really does lie within Sh2-129 some 2,300 light-years away. Consistent with that scenario, Ou4 would represent a spectacular outflow driven by HR8119, a triple system of hot, massive stars seen near the center of the nebula. The truly giant Squid Nebula would physically be nearly 50 light-years across.
Image Credit & Copyright: Rolf Geissinger

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