Chandra X-Ray Observatory: 15 years in orbit

Actually, it was 15 years yesterday, but it’s still worth reporting.  ;-)  Here’s a nice video of the night launch, telescope deploy, and remainder of the mission, narrated by crew:

STS-93 was a big deal because not only was it the heaviest payload to date (and, ultimately, the heaviest Columbia would ever carry) but it was also the first mission commanded by a woman, Eileen Collins.  It also was very nearly a disaster due to a hydrogen leak that almost led to an oxygen-rich SSME shutdown, an event which experts believe the SSME turbopumps would not likely survive.  But they pulled it off, and Chandra is still up there now, returning incredible imagery like this, of the Crab Nebula (looks awfully different in x-ray, doesn’t it?):

crab

 

Of course, the near catastrophe on this mission would be overshadowed a few years later, when Columbia finally returned to flight in January of 2004 . . . . the night landing on STS-93 was to be her last, though no one knew it at the time.

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Progress changeout in . . . er, progress

Progress M-23M undocked from the ISS a few days ago, and will perform a few engineering tests over the next few week before beginning a destructive reentry.

And Progress M-24M blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome atop a Soyuz rocket today, in predawn darkness.  It will shortly begin its final approach to the ISS.  It is the 56th Progress flight to the ISS.

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Waiting for Series Eight: Spoilers! (Well, mild ones.)

SFX has published an interview with Steven Moffat, and MTV was kind enough to share some of the juicy details.  ;-)  Definitely go read this article; there’s plenty to whet your appetite but nothing that will ruin an episode.  It seems this new Doctor is going to be much more alien, as a product of the thousand years Eleven spent on Trenzalore, outliving people left and right and really being forced to appreciate that he’s not human after all, no matter how much he tries to pretend that his companions aren’t really aging after he’s left them.  And he’s going to be ruder, and a bit less immediately trustworthy than many of his predecessors.  Moffatt makes the interesting observation that this is necessary, because the fun, sexy Doctor concept had gotten old (“it’s become a long scarf”, he says) and so to keep us on our toes as an audience, it was time to change that.

http://www.mtv.com/news/1876655/doctor-who-series-8-episode-descriptions-spoilers/

Hang onto your screwdrivers, folks.  This is gonna be an interesting season.

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New Falcon 9.1.1 First Stage Splashdown Video!

SpaceX has released rocketcam video of the Falcon 9.1.1 splashdown from the recent ORBCOMM flight!  It’s much better than the last attempt, although the camera lens unfortunately iced over.  You can still see the landing legs deploy, though.

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Tranquility Base in a new LRO video

The video is comprised of previously acquired imagery from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, including the best ever imagery of the landing site, taken in 2012.  It brings it to life, though, by rendering it in a three-dimensional flyover of the site and also showing how the images of the LM map to the original thing and the photographs taken at the site forty-five years ago.  It’s quite lovely; check it out.  ;-)

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45 Years Since Man First Stepped On the Moon

45 years ago today, July 20,  Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down on the surface of the Moon, becoming the first humans to set foot on another world.  Here’s an annotated video of the final descent and landing:

And then this is long, but it’s worth it.  It’s video synchronizing TV video and 16mm film footage of the moonwalk and stills taken during the excursion:

The men collected 47.5 pounds of lunar rocks before a nap, then a brief EVA to toss out the trash, and then blasted off to return to Michael Collins aboard <i>Columbia</i> orbiting above.

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How eyes from space can solve the mystery of MH17

The US has now officially indicated that a missile took down MH17 — but how can they know?  The answer is SBIRS, and the old DSP satellite constellations.  It’s worth a read.

SPACE.com: Military Satellites Likely Saw Missile Strike on Malaysian Airlines Flight

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