Astronaut Training Facility - The life of a NASA intern

It’s pretty cool to be a NASA intern, especially on days when you get to see some of the astronaut training areas. This particular area has full scale moch-ups of spacecraft as well as International Space Station modules that the astronauts train in. Astronauts were training in the Space Station modules on the day that I went so I wasn’t able to “get inside“ the Space Station, but I did get a look at NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Seen in the 5th image above is the Orion spacecraft - the only spacecraft able to take Humans to the Moon or Mars (SpaceX is currently building one as well, but only Orion has had a test flight into space).

It was very cool to see the Orion Capsule that astronauts train in because I am working on audio controls in the core flight software of the Orion spacecraft. Some of the software that I write will actually be used in space! I was also able to get into the Space Shuttle trainer, seen in the top 3 images (2 are on the top deck and one is in the cargo bay). The second to last image is outside of the Commercial Crew moch-ups and shows SpaceX, Orbital ATK, and Boeing developments.

p.s. thanks to all my followers for the support, I’ll make sure to keep you up to date about NASA stuff as well as space pics and info!


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!

CICLOPS.org: The Icy Mountains of Pluto
CICLOPS.org: Charon’s Surprising Youthful and Varied Terrain

Rosetta’s comet emitting mysterious signals.

The Rosetta mission has detected a mysterious signal coming from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The mission has five instruments in the Rosetta Plasma Consortium (RPC) that measure the plasma environment surrounding the comet. Plasma is a charged gas and the RPC is tasked with understanding variations in the comet’s activity, how 67P’s jets of vapour and dust interacts with the solar wind and the dynamic structure of the comet’s nucleus and coma. But when recording signals in the 40-50 millihertz frequency range, the RPC scientists stumbled on a surprise - the comet was singing, they report. Through some kind of interaction in the comet’s environment, 67P’s weak magnetic field seems to be oscillating at low frequencies.

In an effort to better understand this unique signal, mission scientists have increased the frequency 10,000 times to make it audible to the human ear. First detected in August as Rosetta approached the comet from 100 kilometres, this magnetic oscillation has continued. Rosetta scientists speculate that the oscillations may be driven by the ionisation of neutral particles from the comet’s jets. As they are released into space, they collide with high-energy particles from interplanetary space and become ionised. Because it is electrically charged, the plasma then interacts with the cometary magnetic field, causing oscillations. But to draw any conclusions about this, further work is needed.

You can listen to it here:


Fleet of ships of The Outer Planets Alliance.

• Small fleet of 14 ships, all showing the recognisable orange markings of the OPA. 

• Interplanetary freighter. Works the red routes between Io and Mars.


Sketched in my Moleskine with pigment liner pens. The fleet was coloured with Copic Markers (I’m addicted to the Chrome Orange marker). The freighter was coloured in Photoshop.

December 5 Update: Watch the Orion spacecraft today, Friday December 5 at 10:30 am in the Cullman Hall of the Universe.

NASA’s new spacecraft Orion, which is designed to eventually take humans to an asteroid and Mars, will undergo its inaugural test flight on Thursday, December 4.

The un-crewed 4.5-hour flight, called Exploration Flight Test-1, is expected to begin around 7 am EDT from Cape Canaveral, Florida, if conditions are right. Orion will orbit Earth twice, covering more than 60,000 miles and reaching an altitude of 3,600 miles on the second orbit—15 times farther than the orbit of the International Space Station. The spacecraft will return through Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 20,000 miles per hour, which will generate temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit on Orion’s heat shield.

The Museum will host a viewing event for the test flight from 10:30–12 pm. Visitors to the Museum can watch along with Curator Denton Ebel as Orion re-enters Earth’s atmosphere and splashes down into the Pacific Ocean.

Learn more about the test flight and about the Museum event

Image courtesy of NASA


Stunning new pictures of Pluto released to the world!

The top pic is a false colour image - which means it’s how scientists think Pluto would look like in colour. The b/w pic is the actual one taken by New Horizons.

The spacecraft currently is now in data-gathering mode and not in contact with flight controllers. Scientists are waiting to find out whether New Horizons “phones home”.

Because New Horizons is the fastest spacecraft ever launched – hurtling through the Pluto system at more than 30,000 mph, a collision with a particle as small as a grain of rice could incapacitate the spacecraft. Once it reestablishes contact, it will take 16 months for New Horizons to send its cache of data – 10 years’ worth – back to Earth. (x)