Stories tagged space exploration

In this video, Chris Hadfield, the commander on the International Space Station, takes a few moments to reflect on his time orbiting the Earth via a re-working of singer David Bowie's 1969 classic song "Space Oddity". There's been a lot of space imagery set to music over the decades but I imagine this must be the first music video actually recorded in space by an astronaut. Commander Hadfield, by the way, is the same guy who gave us some pointers on how everyday activities are done in a zero gravity environment in an earlier Buzz post.

Ever wondered how astronauts brush their teeth in a zero gravity environment? Or rinse out a wet rag? Or even make a peanut butter and honey sandwich (with a tortilla)? Wonder no more. Canadian astronaut and ISS Commander Chris Hadfield has created several videos that show how astronauts tackle these usually mundane tasks in space. Here are three:

Apr
06
2013

The distant, lonely Earth seen from the Moon
The distant, lonely Earth seen from the MoonCourtesy NASA (via Zonu.com)
Back in 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were making their historic moonwalk, I remember thinking to myself, what would happen if some kind of malfunction on the Lunar Module prevented them from blasting off the Moon's surface back to the Command and Service Module? They would most certainly die, there's no doubt about that, because NASA had no rescue plan in place. But what about Michael Collins, the Command Module pilot who was orbiting the Moon in the mother ship? He was waiting to take his fellow crew members home to Earth. If they didn't show up, he'd be in for a pretty lonely and agonizing three-day trip across the quarter-million miles of empty space back to Earth. I wondered what that would have been like.

Fortunately, Apollo 11 was a tremendous success and all three astronauts made it back safely, as did the 18 Apollo astronauts who followed in their footsteps (including the ill-fated Apollo 13 astronauts), so the tragic scenario never played out.

Lonely Al Worden: Even the loneliest of Maytag repairmen would have nothing on this astronaut.
Lonely Al Worden: Even the loneliest of Maytag repairmen would have nothing on this astronaut.Courtesy NASA
But what would that have been like? Astronaut Al Worden probably came closest to experiencing the profound loneliness of isolation in ourter space, when he was piloting the Command Module for the Apollo 15 mission. While his crew mates were busy walking (and driving!) on the Moon's surface, Worden was circling overhead - all by himself - for 3 days. At times, when his craft disappeared behind the far side of the Moon, he had no communications with anyone - not even Mission Control - and was thousands of miles away from his colleagues, and hundreds of thousands of miles away from any other human beings. He holds the record for being the "most isolated human being" ever.

You might think it must have been an anxious time for the solo astronaut, but his story, which can be found here, might just surprise you.

SOURCE and LINKS
The Loneliest Human Being
Apollo 15 Mission
Al Worden's webpage

Hold it there just a second, the reports earlier today that Voyager I has left the solar system may be a bit premature. NASA's team following the spacecraft say that they don't consider it to be outside of the influence of our Sun just yet. Confusing? You can read more about the official NASA position on this matter right here.

Voyager !: Voyager I has now left the sphere of our solar system after 35 years of space travel over 11 billion miles. It still hasn't had to stop to ask directions!!!
Voyager !: Voyager I has now left the sphere of our solar system after 35 years of space travel over 11 billion miles. It still hasn't had to stop to ask directions!!!Courtesy NASA
To paraphrase Capt. Kirk, we've now gone boldly where no one has gone before. After 35 years and 11 billion miles of travel, NASA's Voyager I spacecraft has officially left our solar system. Measuring instruments on the craft no longer defect the movement of solar wind, which is the movement of particles influenced by energy released by our Sun, around Voyager I. Following not too far behind is Voyager II, which as covered about 9.5 billion miles. You can learn more about the milestone by clicking here.

UPDATE: Wait a second, NASA isn't agreeing with this analysis on Voyager I's location. You can read more about this brewing science controversy here. Does Pluto have anything to do with this?

The Mars rover, Curiosity, has made an historic drilling into rock on the surface of Mars. The feat is a first in planetary exploration.

"This is the biggest milestone accomplishment for the Curiosity team since the sky-crane landing last August, another proud day for America," said John Grotizinger, the mission's lead scientist.“

The next step is to have the extracted gray powdered rock analyzed by Curiosity's on-board laboratory to determine the sample's chemistry and mineralogy,

SOURCE
BBC report

Jan
23
2013

Rolling, rolling, rolling: Tomorrow marks the 10-year anniversary of the landing of NASA's Mars rover Opportunity. It's still taking pictures and collecting data on the Red Planet.
Rolling, rolling, rolling: Tomorrow marks the 10-year anniversary of the landing of NASA's Mars rover Opportunity. It's still taking pictures and collecting data on the Red Planet.Courtesy NASA
Can we expect to get more than 10 years out of our cars today? At best, they get listed as a "late model" vehicle in some classified ads. So how about our space cars?

This week the Mars rover Opportunity is marking its tenth year of rolling around the Red Planet. Not too shabby for something that was designed for just a quick three-month life span. It's partner rover, Spirit, seized up and got permanently stuck in sand three years ago. And now both vehicles are being overshadowed by Curiosity, the high-tech rover that just landed on Mars five months ago.

Like any older vehicle, Opportunity has its quirks. It gets around mostly in reverse these days because one of the front wheels doesn't turn well. Its robot arm needs some extra coaxing from operators to get jobs done. But it's still collecting samples and data. It total, it's logged 22 miles across the Martian terrain. Not too shabby for a late model rover.

Here's a link to NASA's webpage of photos and information that Opportunity has collected over the years.

NASA scientists announced today that analysis of a soil sample scooped up by the Mars rover, Curiosity, and analyzed by its on-board lab shows evidence of organic compounds. However, whether the organics are indigenous to Mars or were brought by the rover to the Red Planet from Earth has not yet been determined, so NASA is keeping the excitement level subdued for the moment. The announcement was made today at a press conference at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, California.

SOURCE
Wired magazine story

The SpaceX rocket lifted off today from a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, becoming the first commercial flight to the International Space Station and marking the beginning of a new era of space exploration. Read about it here.

Intriguing Martian outcrop
Intriguing Martian outcropCourtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Ed Truthan
Meanwhile, back on Mars, the Curiosity rover has sent back some very cool close-up photos of an intriguing rock outcrop it found on the Red Planet's surface. My first impression looking at the image (which is comprised of several shots stitched together by graphic designer Ed Truthan) is that it looks like it's made up made up of cobbles, and pebbles and sand - the same kind of deposit you find here on Earth left by an old river channel.

A full-sized click-to-make-it- bigger version of the image is available on the Wired website.