While people are getting excited about the James Webb Space Telescope now it is in position to take photos, there is still some great work being done with other missions that NASA and ESA have on the go. Case in point, the Hubble telescope. If you click on that link, you can see photos that it recently took of the star Earendel. As they explain:
With this observation, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has established an extraordinary new benchmark: detecting the light of a star that existed within the first billion years after the Universe’s birth in the Big Bang (at a redshift of 6.2) — the most distant individual star ever seen. This sets up a major target for the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope in its first year.
Meanwhile, closer to home, we have the ESA mission zooming into the Sun with Solar Orbiter and sending back wonderful photos and data along the way. Click the link to get some amazing images of the sun.
It’s all thrilling!
I was a young boy for the first space race in the 1960s and 1970s. After that the pace of space exploration seem to decrease. Recently, though, that pace has picked up, as the Times shows, here: Big Rockets, Massive Asteroids and More Space Highlights for 2022 – The New York Times.
So much happened in 2021, and 2022 seems to be just as busy. We have the James Webb Space Telescope, China building the Tiangong Space Station, NASA’s attempt to deflect an asteroid and much more. If you go to that article, you can subscribe to The Times Space and Astronomy Calendar and keep up to date of everything going on.
Sure billionaires jaunting into space grabs our attention, but there is so much more going on than that, and unlike much in the news, space exploration is fun and exciting to follow. Join the new Space Race!
Despite having telescopes being able to observe it, there’s still much to learn about the Great Red Spot of Jupiter. To do that, NASA sent a space craft to the giant planet to learn more about it. The story of that can be found here: Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Is Surprisingly Deep in Scientific American. It’s one of the many awesome things NASA has on the go in our solar system and beyond.
While there has been a lot of talk lately about space travel due to the billionaire space race, I want to highlight something people rarely mention but should. It’s that it is the anniversary of Apollo’s First Lunar Rover, Driven 50 Years Ago. The Atlantic has a great story on it, including amazing photos.
It’s crazy to think that not only did we land on the moon, but we brought a car with us to drive on the moon! That’s amazing, to me.
In the film Ad Astra with Brad Pitt, there’s a great chase scene with Lunar Rovers. Nothing quite so exciting like that happened during the Apollo missions, but the fact that we brought a car to the moon is exciting as it is. Plus it is still parked up there! I hope the parking rates aren’t too expensive 🙂
Jeff Bezos blasted into space today with three other people. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has an opinion about it. Even Variety magazine did. (That’s worth a read BTW). So fwiw, here’s 1o things I thought about it:
- It’s good to see more interest in space in general. NASA and other space agencies do plenty in terms of space exploration, but often it is overlooked by people. Suddenly — for better or worse — people are talking about space again.
- It’s good to see money being spent on space travel. NASA has suffered for years with cutbacks. Decades. Here’s to more money being effectively used in space.
- These flights of Branson and Bezos are small steps in terms of space travel. They are miles behind SpaceX even, never mind NASA or other space agencies. As we like to say in business: it’s a good start (implying there is a long way to go).
- Small steps can lead to big steps if they continue to pursue this and pour money into it. That’s a big if. Like any space exploration, it is hard to continue to make people interested in it after it starts to seem repetitive. They might find it much harder to get space tourists to pay a small fortune their 10th or 15th flight. Never mind after the first person dies (and someone will).
- Even if everything goes well, it could still fail in the longer run. The Concorde failed and it was much simpler technology than this stuff. Not everything that is the best and fastest gets to succeed.
- I can’t see the ROI on space travel. Musk and SpaceX can get away with it because they have a client with the money to spend on it (i.e. NASA). Not sure if Bezos can wrestle some of that business away. Then again, perhaps there’s a global market for these services.
- I think there would have been a much more positive reaction if it wasn’t Bezos or Branson leading these endeavours. Give Musk credit: he lets the real astronauts do the work. Plus none of these men are inspiring to most people. They aren’t John Glenn or Neil Armstrong: they are billionaires. Bezos was at least smart enough to Wally Funk with him: that was a good distraction from the other members on his team.
- It will remain to be seen if they can catch up to Musk, or if they are even interested. Musk can act the fool, but he seems driven to push private space exploration to the limits. I can see Branson dropping out soon once some other thing comes along. Bezos is a bit of a mystery to me.
- People are criticizing them for spending money on space rather than here on earth, but Bill Gates spends his fortune on such things and he is criticized mightly for it. It’s a no win in terms of spending your money. They all should pay more taxes. (Although a lot of tax money in the US goes into the military budget. That’s a different but related issue.)
- Here’s to more inspiring people going to space soon, and to more inspiring space travel. Let’s hope this leads to that.
(Image: link from the Variety article)
This piece on the Milky Way photographer of the year is filled with amazing photos of…well, you can guess. (One of the photos is above).
This is a good piece on the efforts to study Venus. It won’t be easy to do, but it will be rewarding.
Finally, this piece on how black holes are visualized is excellent.
It’s not explicitly stated, but if you read this: If you think NASA is frustrated with SpaceX, you’re probably right in Ars Technica, then you may draw the same conclusion. It seems SpaceX is taking advantage of its partnership with NASA to position itself to get the point where it can get by without it and eventually compete with the space agency.
If that was not the case, then I would expect SpaceX to stick to missions that were separate from NASA and supportive of NASA. Instead they seem to be trying to compete with NASA for the same missions.
It’s a tricky call for SpaceX: if they are not careful, they could ruin their partnership and find themselves without a steady source of income to fund their ambitions. I’m all for both NASA and SpaceX both being viable for the long term. Let’s hope that happens.
Really. There is a kickstarter going on right now you can contribute to: LUNAR MISSION ONE: A new lunar mission for everyone. by Lunar Missions Ltd
The team there says….
We plan to send an unmanned robotic landing module to the South Pole of the Moon – an area unexplored by previous missions.
We’re going to use pioneering technology to drill down to a depth of at least 20m – 10 times deeper than has ever been drilled before – and potentially as deep as 100m. By doing this, we will access lunar rock dating back up to 4.5 billion years to discover the geological composition of the Moon, the ancient relationship it shares with our planet and the effects of asteroid bombardment. Ultimately, the project will improve scientific understanding of the early solar system, the formation of our planet and the Moon, and the conditions that initiated life on Earth.
I think this is the most fantastic Internet project I have seen yet. I highly recommend you check it out.
Thanks to Kottke for pointing it out.
Posted in cool, science
Tagged astronomy, astrophysics, cool, crowdfunding, exploration, kickstarter, kottke, lunar, moon, NASA, science, space