Tag Archives: NASA

All the exciting things happening in space in 2023. Read this and mark your calendar!

If you interested in space as I am, then get out your calendar and mark down 2023’s top astronomical events so you don’t miss any of them. As WaPo says, “With opportunities to wish upon shooting stars, and to see a Super Blue Moon and the Ring of Fire eclipse, 2023 is bursting” with things to keep an eye out for.

One thing in particular is lunar exploration. First up is, NASA’s Artemis mission. As the Verge explains, an Orion spacecraft that is part of that mission has recently returned and safely splashed down into the Pacific Ocean after a recent trip. A good start! And Artemis promises great things in the future. Not only is it part of NASA’s plan to return visits to the Moon, it’s part of NASA’s plan to never leave. The dream of space colonization could become a reality.

And it’s not just the Americans that are interested in going and staying on the moon. The Chinese are too. Who knows what will take place in the next 10-20 years? It’s all very promising.

With all this space travel, this should keep not just government agencies busy, but private companies too. Case in point: After doubling launch record in 2022, can SpaceX take another step up in 2023?

Heck, even you can get involved. Don’t believe me? Then read this: NASA Wants You to Help Study Planets Around Other Stars.

Meanwhile back on Earth, there’s a lot of interest in tracking asteroids coming close to us. NASA and others are getting a handle on tracking the big ones. The smaller ones are much harder. Here’s a piece on one such asteroid 2023bu that recently blew by us. (See the arrow in the photo above pointing to it.)

For my last space piece I want to highlight, this is a worthwhile read on why some people have an issue with the latest space telescope being named after James Webb. You can find many such pieces arguing back and forth on the matter. I think both sides have worthwhile points. I’ll let you make up your own mind.

Not space related, but fun is this piece on how bees actually play — yes play! — with little wooden balls!

Finally, for people interested in physics, this is a good piece discussing where it is headed. One such. direction is the study of dark matter and dark energy.  Here’s a good piece on a dark energy experiment that recently won a big prize. We need more such experiments if we are ever to solve the mystery of dark energy and matter.


Love and rockets (things I find interesting in math and science, Dec. 2022)

In the last few months my math and science reading has mostly been about space, with some smattering of other things. NASA in particular has been the focus. First up is a piece on the DART Mission which smashed into an asteroid and altered it’s path. No small feat, that. In other big feats, they are still in the planning stages of a a balloon mission to Venus . Given that landing on Venus results in a spacecraft being destroyed, a visit that stays in that planet’s atmosphere may be the only way for it to succeed.

One such mission that should definitely succeed is Artemis, NASA’s project to visit (revisit?) the moon, Here is the NYTimes on it. Relatedly, here’s the Atlantic with a piece on the the 50th anniversary of Apollo. We are clearly due for a return trip. I wonder if it will affect the new astronauts as much as it did William Shatner after his quick trip into space with Jeff Bezos? I suspect they will be more prepared than the TV astronaut was.

Speaking of space, here’s cosmologist Katie Mack talking about scenarios for the end of the universe. I got her book last Christmas and loved it. Another book on physics I want to read is by Sabine Hossenfelder . She’s a no nonsense type of scientist, which I think is good. For while I agree that when it comes to science and especially physics, there is no escaping metaphysics, I also agree with those who say that physicists sometimes get carried away with some of their loftier or wild ideas.

Then again, some of those ideas resulted in this year’s The Nobel Prize . And it had led to physicists creating “the Smallest Crummiest Wormhole You Can Imagine”. These wild ideas really makes you think. If you think too hard, though, you will likely get tired. The Guardian has a good explanation on why thinking tires your brain .

Finally, if you are interested in learning more about physics, I recommend you check out the web site DrPhysicsA. It’s good stuff. And you want to learn more about math, you can visit the blog of one of the best mathematicians in the world. Here is is writing on odds. Also good!

Forget going to Mars. Go to Iceland

I think going to Mars is a terrible idea, but if you are the opposite of me and would love to experience that, I have a suggestion for you. You can get the experience of going there today by going to…Iceland. NPR explains:

Iceland is like Mars — if the Red Planet had hot tubs. That’s the cheeky idea behind a new pitch from Iceland’s tourism board, which says people don’t need a spaceship to see otherworldly sights like red rocks, black sand and subglacial volcanoes. Plus, they note, oxygen is abundant in Iceland. To drive home the message, they launched a promo video and a space billboard with the tagline, “Iceland. Better than space.”

See? All you need is a plane ticket and a place to stay and you can go to Mars next week. If you think the tourism people are just making stuff up, listen to NASA. NPR again:

NASA agrees: the agency has repeatedly used Iceland as a stand-in for the Moon, and it’s doing so again as it prepares astronauts for new missions off-world. “Iceland is an amazing analog for both the Moon and Mars,” says NASA’s Kelsey Young, who researches the exploration of planetary surfaces and who has done geologic fieldwork in Iceland.

For more on this, see the NPR article, here: Iceland says it’s better than space. We asked NASA about that.

What’s new in space? Lots!

While space is very old, some things happening in space are very new. For example, the James Webb Telescope. After much planning, it was recently made operational and started to send back amazing photos (like the one above). You can see more of them at Colossal and the official site of the James Webb telescope. To give you a sense of how great the new telescope is, here’s a piece showing side by side images of the Hubble telescope with those from the James Webb . A dramatic improvement (and the Hubble images were still great).

In other good news, NASA is going back to the moon. I am very excited about this. In not so good news, Russia says it will quit the International Space Station after 2024. Let’s hope the Space Station can survive this form of fracture.

P.S. Not news at all, but here’s a “fun” study of asteroids hitting earth. Hey, it’s space related! 🙂

(Image: link to image in Collossal)



Great photos from NASA/ESA’s Hubble telescope and the ESA mission to the sun

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!

The New Space Race!

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!

On exploring Jupiter’s Red Spot

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.


On the big anniversary of the Lunar Rover

Lunar rover

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 🙂


5 or 10 thoughts on the billionaire space race

Image of Jeff Bezos blasting into space

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.)
  10. 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)

Three great pieces on Venus, the Milky Way, and black hole visualization

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.

SpaceX tries to disrupt and partner with NASA at the same time

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.

You too can be like Elon Musk (@elonmusk) and fund a lunar mission

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.