Changing of the Space Guard

This week three astronauts are returning from an approximately six-month mission on board the International Space Station. Commander Steve Swanson and flight engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev will land the Soyuz spacecraft in Kazakhstan. NASA TV will provide coverage of the ceremony where Swanson will turn over control of station operations to cosmonaut Max Suraev.  Mission Expedition 40 will be completed and Expedition 41 will begin. See here for NASA TV coverage: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html#.VA9WtsJdW5I

Did you know what some astronauts on the ISS have live Twitter accounts? (@astro_reid and @Astro_Alex)

See this page for more information about living on the ISS: https://nightlightsabove.wordpress.com/misc-pages/what-is-it-like-to-live-on-the-international-space-station/

NASA astronaut Steve Swanson, Expedition 40 commander, along with cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev, both flight engineers with the Russian Federal Space Agency, return to Earth Sept. 10 after six month aboard the International Space Station.  Credit: http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/september/nasa-television-to-broadcast-sept-10-return-of-space-station-crew/#.VA8_9sJdW5

NASA astronaut Steve Swanson, Expedition 40 commander, along with cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev, both flight engineers with the Russian Federal Space Agency, return to Earth Sept. 10 after six month aboard the International Space Station. Credit: http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/september/nasa-television-to-broadcast-sept-10-return-of-space-station-crew/#.VA8_9sJdW5

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Curiosity Selfie

Last month I attended the public lecture series at NASA’s JPL in Pasadena.  They had a fun presentation about the current progress of the Curiosity Rover on Mars.    

Curiosity has fulfilled the goal of establishing that ancient Mars could have held life.  She keeps on rolling, drilling, and sending pictures daily.  I’m amazed at the collaboration that takes place to create and support this kind of device and mission.  Here’s a link to watch the filmed presentation:

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/events/lectures_archive.php?year=2014&month=8

25 years ago we met this beauty…

On August 25, 1989, Voyager 2 passed by Neptune, giving us the first pictures of this beauty, up close and personal.  Before then, all we had were pictures of a dot in the sky.  In fact, before the 1800s, Neptune was thought to be another star.  It was an exciting time of unexpected discoveries about the outer planets.  We learned that Neptune had active storms (including the Great Dark Spot) and that its cold moon Triton had active geysers.  Here is a picture of scientists at JPL looking at the new pictures coming in.

Voyager sends pictures of Neptune, August 1989, Credit: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2014-288

Voyager sends pictures of Neptune, August 1989, Credit: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2014-288

See here for memories from that day: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2014-288

Yesterday, (on the 25th anniversary of the Neptune flyby) the New Horizons spacecraft passed Neptune again, on its way to explore Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.  Like the Voyager missions, New Horizons will keep pushing our knowledge of the farther edges of our solar system.

 

Terrific Titan! And a flyby

In honor of this week’s Cassini Titan flyby (learn more about Cassini at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/), here are some cool facts about Titan, the largest moon orbiting Saturn.  Don’t forget to answer the poll question at the bottom!

  • Titan is the only moon in our solar system with an atmosphere, which is 370 miles high
  • Light from the Sun is so dim, daylight on the surface of Titan looks like deep twilight on Earth
  • Titan is a lot like the Earth because it has an atmosphere, seasons, tectonic processes, and rich organic materials (it’s like an ancient Earth but colder!)
Titan in front of Saturn, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Titan in front of Saturn, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

  • The temperature of Titan is so cold, the water there is frozen, and the methane flows in liquid rivers and lakes
  • One of Titan’s lakes is similar to the size of Lake Superior
  • Titan appears to have an ocean of liquid water and ammonia under its surface
  • Scientists are hypothesizing that Titan’s source of methane is coming from cryovolcanos (that spew slush!)
  • Scientists guess that methane raindrops on Titan could grow twice as large as Earth rain drops, and fall at snowflake speeds
  • Titan’s ice mountains are named after mountains in J.R.R. Tolkein’s Middle Earth, the tallest known mountain being named after Mt. Doom
  • Cassini carried the Hyugen’s probe, which landed on Titan on Jan. 14 2005, making it our first landing in the outer solar system
Flyby August 2014, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Flyby August 2014, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI