Category: NASA

Everyone Missed An Apollo 11 Mistake, And It A…

Everyone Missed An Apollo 11 Mistake, And It Almost Killed The Astronauts Returning To Earth

“Fortunately for everyone, they did get lucky. During the technical debriefing in the aftermath of Apollo 11, the fly-by of the Service Module past the Command Module was noted by Buzz Aldrin, who also reported on the Service Module’s rotation, which was far in excess of the design parameters. Engineer Gary Johnson hand-drew schematics for rewiring the Apollo Service Module’s jettison controller, and the changes were made just after the next flight: Apollo 12.

Those first four crewed trips to the Moon — Apollo 8, 10, 11 and 12 — could have all ended in potential disaster. If the Service Module had collided with the Command Module, a re-entry disaster similar to Space Shuttle Columbia could have occurred just as the USA was taking the conclusive steps of the Space Race.”

The flight plan for Apollo 11 was straightforward, if not quite simple. Follow the same trajectory to the Moon that Apollo 8 and Apollo 10 undertook, then successfully enter lunar orbit, launch the Lunar Module, descend to the surface and land softly, perform the scheduled EVA, then ascend back to the Command and Service Module, return to Earth, jettison the Service Module, re-enter, and deploy the parachute to successfully splash down in the Pacific Ocean. Only uncovered well after the mission, there was a huge flaw: the Service Module wasn’t programmed to jettison properly! If things had gone differently, the Command Module could have been damaged, and would have burned up in the atmosphere, killing all on board. 

Come learn about the Apollo 11 mistake that Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were lucky to survive!

NASA Astronauts And Satellites Capture Breatht…

NASA Astronauts And Satellites Capture Breathtaking Images Of An Awakening Volcano From Space

“Volcanoes are some of the most fascinating but also dangerous and deadly natural disasters. Fortunately, with appropriate monitoring, they’re one of the most easily mitigated classes of disasters as well. There are approximately 1,500 potentially active volcanoes on Earth at any time, which doesn’t include undersea volcanoes that have not reached the surface or inactive ones that might surprise us.

Only by continuously monitoring the entire Earth at the appropriate resolutions and cadences can we hope to truly minimize the risk to human life and property. Attempts to cut back on this endeavor harm and endanger us all, while an awareness and appreciation for what Earth observing brings us is our greatest asset. May the beauty of these pictures point the way to the most important truth: that comprehensive knowledge and more information are absolutely key to optimally navigating the challenges of being human on our living planet Earth.”

Just a few days ago, on June 22, 2019, a volcano that hadn’t erupted in nearly a century suddenly sprang to life, belching out waves of ash and volcanic gas high into the stratosphere and posing severe threats to nearby life. But far more at-risk were airplanes, which routinely fly through the region where volcanic ash particles were spewed by this eruption. Due to our full suite of Earth observatories, with an assist from astronauts aboard the International Space Station and ground-based monitoring, we were able to minimize the danger and avoid significant damage. Without NASA’s commitment to Earth monitoring, a commitment that’s continually fighting off attempted cuts, mitigating the risks of volcanic eruptions would be hamstrung by humanity’s greatest danger: willful ignorance.

Come take a look at the spectacular story of the recent eruption of Raikoke volcano, and learn why Earth observing is so important in the process!

Meet The Largest X-Ray Jet In The Universe

Meet The Largest X-Ray Jet In The Universe

“Like all known active galaxies, Pictor A is powered by a supermassive black hole many millions to billions of times our Sun’s mass. Black holes can accelerate and eject infalling matter, leading to intense emissions. The light released spans the spectrum from high-energy X-rays to low-energy radio waves. The radio lobes of gas provide a medium for high-energy X-rays to interact with. When these interactions cause electrons to exceed the speed of sound in the gaseous medium, it creates intense shock waves.”

When you have an active galaxy, you can be pretty certain that there’s a supermassive black hole feeding on some matter nearby. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that black holes don’t just devour matter, but that most of the matter that encounters them gets accelerated and ejected instead. This create large lobes of radio-emitting gas around many such galaxies, and in this one in particular, Pictor A, that provides exactly the right environment to create a spectacular feature. X-ray emissions, with energies many times that required to ionize atoms and molecules, slam into that matter, causing it to create free electrons that exceed the speed of sound in that medium. The result is that we get shock waves, and an overall X-ray jet that’s some 300,000 light-years long.

That makes this galaxy the one with the largest known X-ray jet in the Universe so far! Come get the full story, and many more beautiful images, here!

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Wow 😂 (by @perryfellow on instagram)

This Is Why Mars Is Red And Dead While Earth I…

This Is Why Mars Is Red And Dead While Earth Is Blue And Alive

“Both Mars and Earth had early atmospheres that were heavy, massive, and extraordinarily rich in CO2. While Earth’s carbon dioxide got absorbed into the oceans and locked up into carbonate rocks, Mars was unable to do the same, as its oceans were too acidified. The presence of sulfur dioxide led to Martian oceans that were rich in sulfuric acid. This led to geology of Mars we’ve discovered with rovers and landers, and pointed to a different cause — the solar wind — as the culprit in the mystery of the missing Martian atmosphere.

Thanks to NASA’s MAVEN mission, we’ve confirmed that this story is, in fact, the way it happened. Some four billion years ago, the core of Mars became inactive, its magnetic field disappeared, and the solar wind stripped the atmosphere away. With our magnetic field intact, our planet will remain blue and alive for the foreseeable future. But for a smaller world like Mars, its time ran out long ago. At last, we finally know why.”

For most of the 20th century, we knew that Earth had a carbon dioxide-rich past for its atmosphere, but that those atmospheric molecules were deposited into the ocean and precipitated or fossilized out as carbonate rocks like limestone and dolomite. We assumed that Mars, which once had a thick atmosphere and a water-rich surface, lost its atmosphere the same way. But landers and rovers changed all of that, discovering very little in the way of carbonate rocks, meaning that there must have been a different process at play to strip the Martian atmosphere away.

It wasn’t until NASA’s MAVEN mission that we knew for sure! Come learn why Mars is red and dead while Earth is blue and alive today.

We Have Now Reached The Limits Of The Hubble S…

We Have Now Reached The Limits Of The Hubble Space Telescope

“Finally, there are the wavelength limits as well. Stars emits a wide variety of light, from the ultraviolet through the optical and into the infrared. It’s no coincidence that this is what Hubble was designed for: to look for light that’s of the same variety and wavelengths that we know stars emit.

But this, too, is fundamentally limiting. You see, as light travels through the Universe, the fabric of space itself is expanding. This causes the light, even if it’s emitted with intrinsically short wavelengths, to have its wavelength stretched by the expansion of space. By the time it arrives at our eyes, it’s redshifted by a particular factor that’s determined by the expansion rate of the Universe and the object’s distance from us.

Hubble’s wavelength range sets a fundamental limit to how far back we can see: to when the Universe is around 400 million years old, but no earlier.”

The Hubble Space Telescope, currently entering its 30th year of service, has literally revolutionized our view of the Universe. It’s shown us our faintest and most distant stars, galaxies, and galaxy clusters of all. But as far back as it’s taken us, and as spectacular as what it’s revealed, there is much, much more Universe out there, and Hubble is at its limit.

Here’s how far we’ve come, with a look to how much farther we could yet go. It’s up to us to build the tools to take us there.

Today Marks The Anniversary Of Neil Armstrong&…

Today Marks The Anniversary Of Neil Armstrong’s Near-Fatal Lunar Landing Vehicle Crash

“Softly landing on the Moon, with no horizontal motion and only slight vertical motions, was a tremendous problem facing NASA. There was no computerized guidance or high-resolution maps of the lunar landing site. The eventual lunar module pilot would have to navigate the touchdown manually. Armstrong was training in Lunar Landing Research Vehicle #1 on May 6, 1968, when something went horribly awry.”

A year prior to the Apollo 11 Moon landing, Neil Armstrong was undergoing his 22nd test flight in the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, the test vehicle for NASA’s Lunar Module. Designed to simulate lunar gravity here on Earth, with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities, it was the ultimate way to train for one of the most essential parts of the mission: landing on the Moon.

But 51 years ago today, something went horribly wrong. Engineers would later determine that a problem with helium pressure, causing the hydrogen peroxide on board to become depleted and leading to a fuel imbalance and the eventual failure of the reserve attitude thrusters. From a height of approximately 200 feet and with no warning, Armstrong ejected.

Five seconds later, the vehicle was a flaming wreck on the ground. Come get the story behind one of the great escapes in NASA history!

This Is What Our Sun’s Death Will Look L…

This Is What Our Sun’s Death Will Look Like, With Pictures From NASA’s Hubble

“Single stars often shed their outer layers spherically, like 20% of planetary nebulae. Stars with binary companions frequently produce spirals or other asymmetrical configurations. But the most common shape for planetary nebulae is a bipolar morphology, containing two opposing jets. The leading explanation is that many stars rotate rapidly, which generates large-scale magnetic fields. Those fields accelerate the loosely-held particles populating the outer stellar regions along the dying star’s poles.”

Our Sun is in for a long life, having over 5 billion additional years until it becomes a red giant, and then will burn helium in its core until it’s approximately 7 billion years from now. But when its core exhausts its fuel, the tenuously-held outer layers will get expelled, while the core contracts down to a white dwarf. The intense heat and radiation from this phase will ionize the outer regions and illuminate the skies in a spectacular show known as a planetary nebula. Although this phase might last a mere 10,000 years, the death throes of Sun-like stars can be seen all throughout the galaxy, and is one of the most spectacular sights there is.

What will our Sun look like, and what do the Sun-like stars we see today, going through this phase, show and teach us? Take a look inside and find out!

Celebrate Earth Day With The Greatest Images O…

Celebrate Earth Day With The Greatest Images Of Our Planet From Space

“Our constant monitoring irrefutably demonstrates human-caused terrestrial changes. And an unambiguously rotating, revolving planet. Still, venturing farther away reveals Earth’s cosmic insignificance. From interplanetary space, our details become blurred and fuzzy. […] But as we venture to the outer planets, we’re barely a speck. From the edge of the Solar System, we’re hardly visible at all. In all the Universe, only Earth is home to humanity.”

Today is April 22nd: Earth Day. This is the one day where we’re supposed to take the time to value and appreciate the only home we’ve ever known, and the only planet that we’re aware of capable of supporting life on it. It is small; it is fragile; it is precious. But it’s also beautiful beyond comparison, and perhaps the best way to appreciate it all is to view it from a perspective that most of us will never have for ourselves: from space.

Celebrate Earth Day in unique fashion by viewing some of the greatest images ever taken of our world from beyond it. And happy Earth Day to every one of you.

Celebrate Earth Day With The Greatest Images O…

Celebrate Earth Day With The Greatest Images Of Our Planet From Space

“Our constant monitoring irrefutably demonstrates human-caused terrestrial changes. And an unambiguously rotating, revolving planet. Still, venturing farther away reveals Earth’s cosmic insignificance. From interplanetary space, our details become blurred and fuzzy. […] But as we venture to the outer planets, we’re barely a speck. From the edge of the Solar System, we’re hardly visible at all. In all the Universe, only Earth is home to humanity.”

Today is April 22nd: Earth Day. This is the one day where we’re supposed to take the time to value and appreciate the only home we’ve ever known, and the only planet that we’re aware of capable of supporting life on it. It is small; it is fragile; it is precious. But it’s also beautiful beyond comparison, and perhaps the best way to appreciate it all is to view it from a perspective that most of us will never have for ourselves: from space.

Celebrate Earth Day in unique fashion by viewing some of the greatest images ever taken of our world from beyond it. And happy Earth Day to every one of you.