NASA

21 Martian Years of Discovery

Source:  NASA

Source: NASA

40 Earth years ago (or 21 Martian years, since a Martian year lasts 687 Earth days), we landed our first probe on Mars.  Basically, this was NASA's way of telling the world "the Moon landing wasn't enough".  These weren't just wimpy probes that crashed into the planet without doing any science ... they did work!

A large chunk of today's common knowledge about Mars came from these probes with their 70s fashion and style. According to NASA:

"NASA's Viking 1 and 2 missions to Mars, each consisting of an orbiter and a lander, became the first space probes to obtain high resolution images of the Martian surface; characterize the structure and composition of the atmosphere and surface; and conduct on-the-spot biological tests for life on another planet. Viking provided the first measurements of the atmosphere and surface of Mars. "

For more info, check out the 40th (and 21st) anniversary video below!

Jupiter's Magnetic Personality

Mega Man loves Jupiter's magnetic fields

Mega Man loves Jupiter's magnetic fields

NASA's spacecraft Juno has drifted for five long years in space heading toward Jupiter, the gas giant that laughed when Pluto was demoted from planethood.  Juno arrives on July 4th, bringing plenty of hot dogs, hamburgers, and fireworks.  In the scientific world, these are known as experiments.  Check the following blurb from NASA's press release:

"In order to look inside the planet, the science team equipped Juno with a pair of magnetometers. The magnetometers, which were designed and built by an in-house team of scientists and engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will allow scientists to map Jupiter's magnetic field with high accuracy and observe variations in the field over time."

Check out a nice recap from space.com, and the video below from NASA on Jupiter's magnetic field.

NASA is sending the Juno spacecraft to Jupiter, to peer beneath its cloudy surface and explore the giant planet's structure and magnetic field. Juno's twin magnetometers, built at Goddard Space Flight Center, will give scientists their first look within Jupiter at the powerful dynamo that drives its magnetic field.

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!

R.I.P. Michael Alsbury #SpaceShipTwo

(Note: Please donate to the Mike Alsbury Memorial Fund, as he leaves behind a wife and two small children ages 10 and 17.)

It's been a rough week for space travel. First, an unmanned ISS resupply rocket launched erratically and had to be destroyed by NASA safety operators. Next, the Virgin Galactic spacecraft SpaceShipTwo suffered a mishap that resulted in the loss of life. Pilot Michael Alsbury was killed when SpaceShipTwo crashed in the Mojave Desert while attempting to land.

Heroes like Alsbury put their lives on the line to push forward space research. It's critical that we not take this loss for granted, and they we can continue to push forward to support what Alsbury lived for - taking space exploration to the next level.

The Guardian has a nice writeup of Alsbury's accomplishments. From that article:

Alsbury earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He was the recipient of Northrop Grumman’s President’s Award for Innovation-for-Affordability Excellence this year.

Alsbury was a “home-schooled, home-brewed” pilot who earned his way up through the ranks at the company, starting as an engineer. Alsbury had also put himself through commercial pilot school and was certified as a flight instructor.

Scaled Composite, Alsbury's company of 15 years, released a short statement in his honor

Orion and the Seven Sisters (#Extant E4)

I livetweet CBS' sci-fi show Extant every Wed night on Twitter at 8pm - check out the storify at the end of the article or click here!

On the last episode of CBS's new sci fi show Extant, Molly lies in bed with her son Ethan and discusses a very popular set of stars known as the Pleiades Star Cluster. This cluster of stars has been very prominent in the sky over human history, and many cultures have created stories around them.

A color-composite image of the Pleiades from the   Digitized Sky Survey   Credit:   NASA  /  ESA  /  AURA  /  Caltech

A color-composite image of the Pleiades from the Digitized Sky Survey
Credit: NASA/ESA/AURA/Caltech

One of the most famous stories, which Molly shares with Ethan, is that of the seven sisters. According to Space.com:

"Native Americans thought the cluster formed when a group of women chased by bears asked a stone to help them run from the animals. The stone rose up, protecting them and forming Devil's Tower in Wyoming. The women then became the stars of the cluster.

In Greek mythology, Orion the Hunter chased the seven sisters around Earth. After crying out to the gods for help, the sisters were turned into the stars of the cluster. The gods also placed Orion in the sky after the sting of a scorpion killed him."

Tough break for the women in these culture's, huh? I guess they are always being hunted. In any case, it's pretty amazing that different cultures all have stories that are somewhat similar.  The power of the human mind.

For a recap of the complete episode of Extant (spoiler alert), please check out the Storify below!