Category Archives: Space Science

Video: Blue Origin flies its New Shepard rocket to space and back

Blue Origin, the space company owned by Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com fame, flew their New Shepard reusable suborbital rocket vehicle for the third time last Saturday. The rocket takes off with the rocket booster and crew capsule connected together but just above 100 km in altitude the two separate. The crew capsule falls back to earth for a parachute landing while the booster does a vertical tail-first powered return using its liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen engine.

In this test flight they decided to wait till the booster was at low altitude before turning on the engine. As you will see in the video, it comes down really fast and then brakes smoothly for a soft landing:

In a year or two, the New Shepard vehicles will fly people above the threshold to space but for the time being scientific and technology research payloads will be frequent customers. Here are videos describing the two experiments that flew on the above flight:

A University of Central Florida experiment designed to mimic impacts between objects in microgravity is flying aboard the next flight of Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard space vehicle. Principal Investigator: Dr. Joshua Colwell

A Southwest Research Institute experiment designed to better understand the rocky soil on small, near-Earth asteroids is flying aboard the next flight of Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard space vehicle. Principal Investigator: Dr. Dan Durda

Audio: Update on space science news + The hunt for dark matter & dark energy

Dr. David Grinspoon of the Planetary Science Institute gives an interesting update on a number of recent space science developments including the sighting of a comet or asteroid hitting Jupiter, icebergs on Pluto, seas on Charon, salt mounds on Ceres, and gravity maps of Mars: John Batchelor Show –  David Grinspoon, PSI.

And here is a talk with Evalyn Gates, author of Einstein’s Telescope: The Hunt for Dark Matter and Dark Energy in the Universe, about these mysteries of the universe: The John Batchelor Show – Evalyn Gates –

Video: Tim Peake shows the aurora

UK/ESA astronaut Tim Peake posted this impressive extended view of an aurora as seen from the International Space Station:

See also the recent Video: ‘On the shoulders of giants’ – Tim Peake’s Principia mission on the ISS.

Video: Artist Michael Carroll – “On the shores of Titan’s Farthest Sea”

In this SETI Institute seminar,  author/artist Michael Carroll explores

the bizarre methane-filled seas and soaring dunes of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Recent advances in our understanding of this planet-sized moon provide enough information for authors to paint a realistic picture of this truly alien world.

New Horizons: Frozen nitrogen lake spotted on the surface of Pluto

A New Horizons image shows an interesting feature:

Pluto: On Frozen Pond

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft spied several features on Pluto that offer evidence of a time millions or billions of years ago when – thanks to much higher pressure in Pluto’s atmosphere and warmer conditions on the surface – liquids might have flowed across and pooled on the surface of the distant world.

Pond[1]
Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
“In addition to this possible former lake, we also see evidence of channels that may also have carried liquids in Pluto’s past,” said Alan Stern, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado—principal investigator of New Horizons and lead author of a scientific paper on the topic submitted to the journal Icarus.

This feature appears to be a frozen, former lake of liquid nitrogen, located in a mountain range just north of Pluto’s informally named Sputnik Planum. Captured by the New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) as the spacecraft flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, the image shows details as small as about 430 feet (130 meters). At its widest point the possible lake appears to be about 20 miles (30 kilometers) across.

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See also a recent presentation of New Horizons results so far: New Horizons Team Presents Latest Pluto Science Results at Planetary Conference.