Space Exploration

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

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A number of nations and organizations have long-term intentions to send humans to Mars.  On December 5th, 2014 NASA successfully launched and tested the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), the first component of NASA's planned Mars mission program.

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The Orion MPCV will serve as the launch/ splashdown crew delivery vehicle, in combination with a Deep Space Habitat module, which will provide additional living-space for the crew on the 16 month long journey from Earth to Mars and back. The first manned Mars Mission, which will include sending astronauts to Mars, orbiting Mars, and a return to Earth, is currently scheduled for the 2030's.

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A mobile laboratory the size of a washing machine made history Wednesday when it completed a slow-motion descent to the surface of a comet 311 million miles from Earth.

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The European Space Agency's Philae spacecraft initially landed close to its target site on the comet and beamed back its position to the Rosetta orbiter. ESA engineers headquartered in Darmstadt, Germany, received the first signal that the lander had made it to the surface after a long and agonizing wait.  Scientists had slammed spacecraft into comets before, but had never gently landed on one. The ESA team conceived the risky Rosetta mission in the late 1980s to learn more about comets that formed from the same mix of gas, dust and other ingredients that would form the sun, Earth and other planets.

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The full eclipse of the moon started at 6:25 a.m. EDT and lasted until 7:24 a.m, according to NASA. Full lunar eclipses are often called "blood moons" because of the reddish tint they adopt as sunsets and sunrises seen from Earth reflect onto the surface of the moon.

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Because this eclipse happened two days after a lunar perigee, which is the point when the moon is nearest to Earth, NASA says the moon appeared 5.3 percent larger than the previous "blood moon," which occurred on April 15, 2014.

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Europe's Rosetta probe has arrived at a comet after a 10-year chase. In a first for space history, the spacecraft was maneuvered alongside a speeding body to begin mapping its surface in detail. The spacecraft fired its thrusters for six and a half minutes to finally catch up with comet 67P.
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"We're at the comet!" said Sylvain Lodiot of the European Space Agency (Esa)  operations centre in Germany. "After 10 years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, looping around the Sun five times and clocking up 6.4 billion km, we are delighted to announce finally 'we are here',"  said Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of Esa.

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Starting in the fall of 2014, astronauts on the International Space Station won't have to wait months for replacement parts to be launched from Earth. Instead, they can use a newly arrived 3D printer to fabricate the tools and materials they need.
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"The 3D printer that we're going to fly on space station will actually be the first-ever 3D printer in space," Niki Werkheiser, 3D Print project manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said about the space station 3D printer.  "It is the first step toward the 'Star Trek' replicator," Werkheiser added, referring to the machine in the science-fiction franchise capable of creating meals and spare parts.The 3D printer headed to the space station in August 2014 — a joint project between NASA Marshall and the California-based company Made in Space — would be limited to parts only, rather than edible objects.