Back to the Moon? New House bill defunds NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission

Artist’s conception of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). The new House bill directs NASA to bypass this mission and return to the Moon instead, before going to Mars. Image Credit: NASA
Artist’s conception of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). The new House bill directs NASA to bypass this mission and return to the Moon instead, before going to Mars. Image Credit: NASA

Sending human astronauts to Mars is a dream shared by many, but there are still challenges to overcome and the question of just how to accomplish it is a subject of intense debate. Some supporters advocate sending a mission directly to Mars, while others think that returning to the Moon first, for potentially beneficial training, is the way to go. Indeed, former astronaut James Lovell, who flew on two trips to the Moon, has also called for a return to the Moon first. NASA itself has stated its desire to send a crewed mission to a nearby asteroid first, instead of the Moon, going a bit farther into space than the Moon as its idea of preparation for the much longer journey to Mars. A major problem has been that NASA has still not set a firm timetable for such a mission; it wants to go to Mars, but the steps to achieving that goal are still unclear.

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Two years from today: get ready for the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017

A total eclipse of the Sun, showing the Sun’s atmosphere, or corona, stretching out into space, which is not normally visible during daylight. Photo Credit: Fred Espenak/NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
A total eclipse of the Sun, showing the Sun’s atmosphere, or corona, stretching out into space, which is not normally visible during daylight. Photo Credit: Fred Espenak/NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Exactly two years from today, on Aug. 21, 2017, a rare total solar eclipse will be seen again in the skies of the United States, racing east from Oregon to South Carolina. For a brief couple of minutes, the skies will darken as the Moon passes in front of the Sun, revealing the Sun’s corona, which is not normally visible in daylight, to millions of people as it crosses coast to coast for the first time in nearly a century. A total solar eclipse is one of the greatest sights in nature, not to be missed, and many are already making plans to witness the event.

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Our ‘glowing Moon’: LADEE spacecraft discovers neon in lunar atmosphere

Artist’s conception of the LADEE spacecraft orbiting the Moon. Its findings will help scientists to better understand thin exospheres, such as the one our own Moon has. Image Credit: NASA Ames/Dana Berry
Artist’s conception of the LADEE spacecraft orbiting the Moon. Its findings will help scientists to better understand thin exospheres, such as the one our own Moon has. Image Credit: NASA Ames/Dana Berry

The existence of neon gas in our Moon’s ultra-thin atmosphere has been confirmed for the first time, by NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft. Its presence had been theorized for decades, but has now finally been confirmed and found to be relatively abundant, even though it’s not nearly enough for the Moon to actually glow like a neon sign.

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Image Gallery: Moon passing in front of Earth

Still frame from the animation showing the Moon passing in front of the Earth. Image Credit: NASA/NOAA
Still frame from the animation showing the Moon passing in front of the Earth. Image Credit: NASA/NOAA

A beautiful and unique view of the Moon passing in front of the Earth as seen from the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite. The far side of the Moon, never seen from Earth, is visible here as the Moon passes between the satellite and Earth. The video animation is here. The images were taken between 3:50 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. EDT on July 16, 2015 from 1,609,000 kilometres (1,000,000 miles) away.

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New Chang’e 3 images from the Moon

View of the Yutu rover on the Moon, taken by the Chang'e 3 lander. Credit: cnr.cn
View of the Yutu rover, taken by the Chang’e 3 lander. Credit: cnr.cn

Here are a couple of new images taken by the Chinese Chang’e 3 lander and Yutu rover on the Moon. Much better resolution than the first earlier images and nice to finally have some new views from the lunar surface after all these decades! An interesting change from the Mars rovers, which look at a bright, dusty Martian sky, while here there is virtually no atmosphere and perpetual blackness overhead…

View of the Chang'e 3 lander, taken by the Yutu rover. Credit: cnr.cn
View of the Chang’e 3 lander, taken by the Yutu rover. Credit: cnr.cn

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