The European Space Agency's Rosetta Space Probe has reached orbit of Comet 67P (Churyumov-Gerasimenko) today. This marks the first orbit of a comet by a space probe ever and the end to a ten year, five month, and four day journey in which the probe traveled over three billion miles. This was no easy feat, however. Chury, the comet's nickname, travels at 62,000 miles per hour. Unlike previous missions, this mission is not just a flyby of the comet, but a one year close observation of the comet.
NASA's Mars rover Opportunity passed 25 miles of driving on July 27, 2014. This record was previously held by Russian Mars rover Lunokhod 2. It has been 10 years since Opportunity first arrived on the Martian surface in 2004. The rover is now in Endeavor Crater, but is scheduled to drive another mile to reach "Marathon Valley," named after the 26 mile distance from the valley to the rover's landing site.
On July 23, 2012, a massive solar flare barely missed Earth, according to NASA. The effects could've been disastrous. It would've knocked out power all across the world, and burned all electronic devices.
A solar flare occurs when a sudden flash of energy is observed over the surface of the sun. When this energy is released, it becomes known as a coronal mass ejection. If this energy gets to Earth's magnetosphere, it can have disastrous effects.
For example, the first recorded solar flare to reach earth happened in 1859. It is known as the Carrington Event because it was observed by English astronomer Richard Carrington. During the Carrington Event, telegraphs caught on fire and aurora were seen in the Northern Hemisphere as far south as the Caribbean, and in Southern Hemisphere as far north as Queensland, Australia. A similar, but smaller event occurred in 1989 in Canada and knocked out power across the country.
Although the massive solar flare of 2012 missed Earth, astronomers predict a 12 percent chance of a similar event reaching Earth in the next 10 years.
The European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle 5 will launch from South America at 3:47 PDT today. The spacecraft is nicknamed "Georges Lemaitre," after a Belgian astronomer and priest who proposed a theory in 1927 that later became known as the Big Bang Theory. The ATV-5 will reach its destination, the International Space Station on August 12, where it will stay docked for six months. Afterwards, it will be loaded with trash and be sent to burn in the atmosphere.
This is the final ATV mission and the ESA's final cargo resupply to the ISS. The first ATV spacecraft, nicknamed "Jules Verne," launched in March 2008.
A recent comparison photo of NASA's Curiosity rover's wheels over time has surfaced. It shows that the rover's left front wheel has been damaged during the Martian year. The main culprit of this damage is probably rough terrain that Curiosity has been traveling on since October 2013.
However, scientists are also examining another possibility. Curiosity's wheels are made out of aluminum, which is strong and lightweight, along with cutouts that spell "JPL" in morse code. These cutouts may allow the wheels to be damaged easier. As of December 8, 2013, Curiosity has already driven four miles, and its main mission, Mars Science Laboratory, lasts until June this year. However, scientists want the rover to last longer for extended missions in the future.
China's first lunar lander, Jade Rabbit, has snapped its first panorama of its landing site. The panorama was created from 60 pictures taken 3 times by the rover. The Jade Rabbit rover landed on the Moon on December 15, 2013, part the Chang'e-3 mission.
Karen Nyberg became the 50th woman in space in 2008. Now, her recent five-month trip to the International Space Station has allowed her to capture a video of Typhoon Haiyan. Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines earlier this month, has killed at least 5,268 people with its Category 5 winds topping 195 miles per hour. You can see the video below.
Yesterday, the Obama administration unveiled its new national space transportation policy. This new policy calls for more support of private aerospace companies, such as SpaceX, especially in private flights in low-earth orbit. This allows NASA to focus more on taking humans into deep space with its new Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft. A test flight of Orion is scheduled for next year, and a test flight for SLS probably in 2017. These two vehicles will allow NASA to complete Barack Obama's two goals for space exploration: astronauts visiting a near-Earth asteroid by 2025, and Mars by the mid-2030s. This new policy will really help NASA with its tighter budget, as well as getting the US back to being more competitive in the space race.
Fifteen years ago yesterday, November 20, 1998, the first part of the International Space Station was launched. The ISS, which was part of a joint project between NASA, the ESA, the CSA, the JAEA, and the RFSA, travels at an incredible 17,000 mph! 211 people have visited ISS since the first astronauts traveled there in 2000. ISS is expected to last another 15 years, until 2028.
Ever since Comet ISON became visible to the naked eye, a lot has happened in the last few days. First of all, an amateur astronomer has captured an amazing photo of Comet ISON. The picture is shown below.
Second of all, Comet ISON has appeared to have grown two wings! Scientists believe that these "wings" are actually fragments that broke off the comet's nucleus, and that caused the comet to brighten. However, Karl Battams of NASA disagrees. He says that the wings look too symmetrical to have been caused by nucleus fragmentation and that it may have be that comet is shooting off dust or a change in solar wind may have occurred.
I like astronomy.