On Sunday, February 9, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are banding together to launch a new mission to study our sun up close: The Solar Orbiter, which will peer at previously unseen areas of the sun to learn about the complex inner life of our star.
The mission will go where no observer has gone before: Over the north and south poles of the sun. Imaging the poles is particularly important for modeling space weather, as this requires an accurate model of the entire magnetic field of the sun. Additionally, the poles are thought to play a role in the cycle of sunspots — dark blotches that appear on the surface of the sun and which come and go in an approximately 11-year cycle. Scientists still have no idea why this 11-year cycle exists, but looking at the magnetic fields of the poles could provide an answer.
It’s the award no one wanted to win: 2019 was the second hottest year on record, government scientists confirmed yesterday (Jan. 15).
That’s according to two separate analyses: one conducted by NASA and one by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Each study compared 2019 Earth temperature data with scientists’ historical records, which begin in 1880. Of those 140 years, only 2016 was warmer than last year; the analyses also show that the five hottest years on record have been the five years beginning in 2015
This year didn’t end up exactly how many in the spaceflight industry had hoped.
Rocket launches were delayed. Explosions and development setbacks pushed off exciting milestones. NASA astronauts still don’t have the option to fly aboard American spacecraft.
But there were also numerous indicators that the burgeoning commercial space industry is in good health.
Investments in the sector are growing exponentially. And Wall Street banks, from Goldman Sachs to Morgan Stanley, predict the global space industry will grow to $1 trillion or more over the next two decades.
Popular science fiction of the early 20th century depicted Venus as some kind of wonderland of pleasantly warm temperatures, forests, swamps and even dinosaurs. In 1950, the Hayden Planetarium at the American Natural History Museum were soliciting reservations for the first space tourism mission, well before the modern era of Blue Origins, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. All you had to do was supply your address and tick the box for your preferred destination, which included Venus.
Today, Venus is unlikely to be a dream destination for aspiring space tourists. As revealed by numerous missions in the last few decades, rather than being a paradise, the planet is a hellish world of infernal temperatures, a corrosive toxic atmosphere and crushing pressures at the surface. Despite this, NASA is currently working on a conceptual manned mission to Venus, named the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept —(HAVOC).
On July 4, 2016, NASA’s Juno spacecraft arrived at Jupiter traveling at a blistering 130,000 mph. Its mission — to orbit the gas giant closer than any craft had done before — was not easy.
Like Earth, Jupiter is surrounded by a field of magnetic radiation. But Jupiter’s is much, much stronger. If Juno didn’t hit a precise region at the poles where the magnetic field is the weakest in its entry, it wouldn’t have survived; the radiation would have fried the craft.
Juno hit its mark, and Scott Bolton, who leads Mission Juno, called it “the hardest thing NASA has ever done.” Since then, Juno has been completing an orbit of Jupiter once every 53 days.
In June, Juno’s mission was approved to continue through at least July 2021. After that, NASA can choose to extend the mission — or it could end it, plunging the craft into Jupiter’s gauzy atmosphere, where it would burn up. If this dramatic ending sounds familiar, it’s because last year NASA crashed Cassini, the spacecraft that orbited Saturn, into that gas giant. It was awesome.
Space is sexy and badass — and it doesn’t necessarily take a government agency to get you there.
That’s the central theme of a brand overhaul unveiled this week at the Commercial Spaceflight Foundation, a trade group for the dozens of startups in the nascent private space travel industry.
The group is hoping that the new look and a more active approach to promoting itself will attract more public attention and allow it to tap into the same awestruck regard that people tend to have for NASA.
“We want to make that that sexy, badass persona that NASA has established in the government space exploration realm is carried forward into the private commercial space industry,” says David Moritz, founder and CEO of Viceroy Creative, the ad agency behind the rebrand.
NASA’s robotic Juno probe began circling the solar system’s largest planet late Monday, ending a nearly five-year journey through deep space and becoming the first spacecraft to enter Jupiter orbit since NASA’s Galileo mission did so in 1995.
The milestone came late Monday, as Juno fired its main engine in a crucial 35-minute burn that slowed the probe down enough to be captured by Jupiter’s powerful gravity. That burn started at 11:18 p.m. EDT and ended on schedule at 11:53 p.m.
Source: NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Enters Jupiter’s Orbit After 5-Year Journey – NBC News
That giant flaming star in the sky does rotate, but moves at a much slower pace than the Earth.
It takes 24 hours for the Earth to make a full rotation, but since the sun isn’t a solid object like a planet, its rotation is harder to pinpoint.
“Since the sun is a ball of gas/plasma, it does not have to rotate rigidly like the solid planets and moons do,” according to NASA.
WHAT IS YOUR favorite space robot? How about stalwart Opportunity, still doing Martian science 11 years after its mission was supposed to end? Canadarm2 is another strong candidate: The 58-foot-long, seven-jointed robot put the International Space Station together, grappling from module to module like a slo-mo ninja warrior. Or maybe you’re more of a humanoid C-3PO fan. In that case, there’s the R5, a bipedal droid from NASA that can do all the repetitive and dangerous things that humans are too busy, bored, or susceptible to radiation to perform. Well, in theory.
Fact is, humanoid robots aren’t quite there yet. Not on Earth (witness the follies from the last DARPA Robotics Challenge), not in space. The world’s best bipedal robots have trouble doing things like opening doors, climbing out of jeeps, and walking in straight lines. That’s something NASA would like to fix, so it’s given a pair of R5s—along with $500,000 each—to two US universities with awesome robotics teams.
Could NASA be looking for funding to gear up for a trip to Mars?
Public interest in manned missions to Mars has been a fantasy for decades and is slowly becoming a reality.
Riding the wave of enthusiasm, NASA has tentative plans for missions to Mars and the asteroid belt. But with the government’s $18 trillion pile-up of debt, how will it be paid for? Perhaps by licensing the right to use technology developed by NASA to energetic new companies.
David Miller, NASA’s chief technologist, says:
“The Startup NASA initiative leverages the results of our cutting-edge research and development so entrepreneurs can take that research — and some risks — to create new products and new services.”