spaceflight

NuSTAR Stares at the Sun
Flaring, active regions of our sun are highlighted in this image combining observations from several telescopes. High-energy X-rays from NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) are shown in blue; low-energy X-rays from Japan’s Hinode spacecraft are green; and extreme ultraviolet light from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is yellow and red.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/JAXA

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An illustrated timeline of spacesuit design.

Some incredible Redditors have compiled a visual timeline of spacesuits designed for use in the space program. The chart includes both Soviet, Russian and American space suits as well as technology demonstrators, prototype, and  other suits that didn’t actually make it into space.

Check out the full-sized image here.

Interestingly enough, the G5C suit used on Gemini 8 isn’t included on here, although its immediate two predecessors are. Those were modified G3C suits and only used on that mission. Additionally, the Apollo A1C suit, a modified Gemini G3C, is not included either. That was to be used for the ill-fated Apollo 1 and cancelled Apollo 5 crewed missions.

It was a busy week in spaceflight and many amazing things happened:

  • December 1st, Russia launched new-generation navigation satellite GLONASS-K (Global Navigation Satellite System) into orbit (x)
  • December 2nd, a Japanese (JAXA) launcher blasted off, dispatching Hayabusa 2 probe, a daring six-year expedition to bring a piece of an asteroid back to Earth (x)
  • December 5th, NASA launched Orion’s spaceship designed to carry astronauts far beyond Earth, setting up the possibility of human exploration of Mars (x)
  • December 6th, European Space Agency’s Ariane-5 carrier rocket launched with two telecommunications satellites, one to beam down ultra-sharp television programming into millions of American homes and another craft to give Indian citizens expanded access to information technology (x)

The Apollo 13 Service Module photographed by the crew following CSM separation, April 17, 1971. Three days prior, on April 13, an oxygen tank in the Service Module ruptured due to a short circuit, causing significant damage to the spacecraft and an aborted Lunar Landing mission.

Up until recently, only one photograph of the damaged service module was in widespread publication:

With NASA’s publication of over 8,400 Apollo program images, the other photographs in the sequence are now available. New Horizons team member Alex Parker processed the set and combined them into the above gif.

Badass Scientist of the Week: Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova (1937–) is a Soviet cosmonaut, an engineer, and the first woman to fly in space. Born to a tractor driver and a textile plant worker in the Yaroslavl Region of Russia, Tereshkova left school at 17 to work as a textile factory assembly worker and continue her education by correspondence. She was also a keen amateur skydiver through the DOSAAF Aviation Club in Yaroslavl. Tereshkova made her first jump in May 1959 at age 22, and two years later in April 1961, the Soviet Union launched Vostok 1, aboard which was Yuri Gagarin: the first man in space. 

In early 1962, the Soviet Union recruited 50 new cosmonauts into their Vostok program—with 5 women among them, in an attempt to beat the Americans. Piloting experience wasn’t needed, but after re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, the pilot of the Vostok spacecraft would be ejected to make a landing by parachute. Thanks to her parachuting expertise, Tereshkova was selected. She was the least qualified of the 5 women, who were test pilots, engineers, and world-class parachutists, but after intensive training—weightless flights, centrifuge and isolation tests, spacecraft engineering, parachute jumps and pilot training—Tereshkova was in the final two candidates: herself and Ponomaryova. 

At first it was planned that Tereshkova would launch first in Vostok 5 and Ponomaryova would follow in Vostok 6, but the plan was scrapped in early 1963; instead, a male cosmonaut flew Vostok 5, and Tereshkova flew in Vostok 6. She was 26 years old. 

She spent 70.8 hours in space, making 48 orbits of the Earth, and with one single flight she logged more flight time than all previous American astronauts put together. She also conducted experiments on the effects of space on the human body and took photos that helped identify aerosols in the atmosphere. 

After her return to Earth, Tereshkova never flew again, but studied engineering at the Zhukovsky Air Force Academy and eventually obtained her PhD in 1977. She also became a prominent politician, served on international councils and spoke at international conferences, played a critical role in socialist women’s issues, and was awarded with the USSR’s highest honour, the Hero of the Soviet Union medal, along with many other awards. 

After Tereshkova, it took 19 years until another woman flew to space: another Soviet cosmonaut, Svetlana Savitskaya. A year after that in 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. Of the 536 people who have flown in space to date, only 10% of them have been women. 

Tereshkova also married astronaut Andrian Nikolayev. Their daughter, Elena, was the first person whose parents had both flown in space. 

On her 70th birthday, Tereshkova said that if she had a chance, she would like to fly to Mars even if it was only a one-way trip, showing she still retains her pioneering spirit to this day.

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Mostly Mute Monday: A final view from the Moon

“From December 11th to the 14th, 1972, astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt set foot on the lunar surface, becoming the last two human beings to do so as part of the Apollo program.”

It’s been nearly 43 years since humans have set foot on the Moon, and yet we’ve never forgotten what it looks like. Yet nothing that anyone can describe – either about what it was like or what we’ve done while we were there – can take the place of what our final, highest-at-the-time resolution views can tell us. Go experience the whole thing for yourself.

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Crew Dragon pad abort test - from the capsule’s perspective.

SpaceX has released incredible onboard footage from the crew Dragon pad abort test earlier this month.

Three cameras were used to compile the video; one mounted on the north-facing side of the capsule, just above a SuperDraco engine, one looking upwards just below the parachute compartment, and one looking sideways to the right of the trunk/capsule umbilical connector.

Of particular interest to see is the structure of the forward portion of the trunk compartment and the structural connections to the capsule.

Additionally, the cameras also recorded sound during the 90 second test. The full video can be seen here.

Click here for our pad abort coverage.

NASA Day of Remembrance

Today, 28th January 2016, marks the 30th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, and is also the NASA Day of Remembrance. Today, we honour the men and women who died for the advancement of human space flight and exploration.

Seven lives were lost during the Challenger incident, where the shuttle broke apart due to a booster engine failure. Left to right in the picture above are:  Teacher-in-Space payload specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe; payload specialist Gregory Jarvis; astronauts Judith A. Resnik, mission specialist; Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, mission commander; Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist; Mike J. Smith, pilot; and Ellison S. Onizuka, mission specialist.

The Apollo 1 crew, Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee lost their lives to a fire in their Apollo capsule on 27th January 1967, during a pre-launch test.

On 1st February 2003, contact with the Columbia shuttle was lost. A hole in the wing caused the orbiter to break apart upon re-entry, with seven astronauts on board. Aboard the Shuttle were commander and mechanical engineer Rick D. Husband, pilot William C. McCool, payload commander, mission specialist and physicist Michael P. Anderson, payload specialist and first Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, mission specialist and aerospace engineer Kalpana Chawla, and mission specialists and flight surgeons David M. Brown and Laurel Blair Salton Clark.

Let us all take time to remember the men and women who gave their lives to make space flight possible.

All images courtesy of NASA, more information on NASA Day of Remembrance here

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Two different ideas for space station modules, both from the Power Tower “racetrack” configuration.  The design up top was chosen in the end, but there are other possibilities involving putting the equipment in the center and having the work area around that.  Similar to the modern Bigelow expandable modules.

The Apollo 17 Lunar Module, Challenger, as seen from the Lunar Rover from a mile away.

One of the biggest challenges Moonwalkers faced was the complete lack of depth perception. With no atmosphere or tall surface features, astronauts could not easily gauge how tall or far away lunar mountains were.

The photo above from Apollo 17 highlights this issue; the rocks on the side of the mountain in the background appear to be just as large as those near the LM and in the foreground.

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No, NASA Did Not Accidentally Invent Warp Drive

“If your experimental results, no matter how sacrosanct or robust the theories underlying them have proved to be in the past, are in conflict with the best available theories out there, then it’s the theories that need revision, not the experiment. And various teams have all claimed to have detected this thrust using such a device.

So let me ask you this, aspiring (or armchair) scientists: what would be the criteria you’d demand as the extraordinary evidence necessary to convince you that this is real?”

NASA Spaceflight has claimed to have vetted the EM Drive in a vacuum, and found there is still an anomalous thrust/acceleration on the order of 50 microNewtons for the device. While some are claiming this means things like warp drive and 70-day-trips-to-Mars are right on the horizon, it’s important to view this from a scientist’s point of view. Here’s what it will take to turn this from a speculative claim into a robust one.