Science

NASA Does The New Year Right

Check out what NASA has in store for 2016!

Highlights are:

 

Watch the SpaceX Falcon Rocket Launch ... and Land

This is simply incredible. SpaceX has successfully used a rocket to launch a spacecraft, and returned that same rocket back to Earth unharmed.  

Uploaded by SpaceX on 2015-12-22.

This will significantly decrease the cost of space travel.  Why? It takes a lot of fuel and rocket power to give spacecraft enough speed to leave the Earth's atmosphere.  Usually, this fuel is burnt up and the rocket is detached from the spacecraft and burns up in the atmosphere. 

Less resources on fuel means more resources on the actual spacecraft. Most importantly, less debate in a cost cutting political environment!

If you want to geek out over the full livestream, please see below:

With this mission, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket will deliver 11 satellites to low-Earth orbit for ORBCOMM, a leading global provider of Machine-to-Machine communication and Internet of Things solutions. The ORBCOMM launch is targeted for an evening launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.


The Hubble Can Rent a Car, Fix Your Eyes

 Astronauts train for certain missions, including Hubble service repair, by performing in special underwater tanks.  This simulates a zero gravity environment.

Astronauts train for certain missions, including Hubble service repair, by performing in special underwater tanks.  This simulates a zero gravity environment.

Many widely known images of the galaxy have been taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, which turns 25 this year (time to rent a car!). NASA has created a fantastic video to discuss one of the later repairs to the Space Telescope Imaging Spectograph (STIS). It's a great example of geniuses at Johnson Space Center in Houston having to quickly come up with a solution when astronauts on a spacewalk could not correctly perform a repair.

The advances from fixing the Hubble's mirror will be rolled into the James Webb Space Telescope, as well as ... your eyes. Check out the following video to see how the technology is used to improve LASIK vision correction.

Check out more Hubble goodness here at the official NASA site, or the Hubble 25th anniversary site.

Big Stars, Bigger Nothing

Space is truly awe inspiring - and amazingly empty.  It's often hard for us to conceptualize both the immense size of planets, stars, and other bodies with the incredible amount of space between them.

To show the immense size,  introduced me to a fantastic YouTube video compared planet and star sizes. The video does a great job of showing relative size - once you think you're at the largest size possible, another body comes along and knocks it out of the park!

 

 

All of those wonderfully huge (and woefully undersized) bodies are faaaaaaaaaaaaaar part.  Check out this interactive scrolling game from Josh Worth (props to Steve Greenwood for linking me to this).  If you can scroll the entire way, I commend you.

 

This background knowledge helps to fully appreciate the Pluto news as covered by the latest This Week in NASA video - check it out!

After a nearly decade-long journey, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft arrived at Pluto on July 14 - passing by at a mere 7,750 miles above the surface ... resulting in an absolutely breathtaking image - the closest ever of Pluto. Initial congratulations included a Twitter post from the White House ...



Pluto is the Best Dwarf Ever

Pluto is an odd duck.  It was known as the ninth planet until early in this millenium, when it was demoted to dwarf planet status.  All of this and we never even got a good luck at Pluto!

The current New Horizons mission is out to changed that. Launched almost a decade ago, it took a three billion mile journey to Pluto, and below are the pics to prove it!