All posts by Tom

Hera Mission

What happens when we impact an asteroid, other than the obvious crater and debris, can we actually change its trajectory? The Hera mission is designed to find out by impacting “Didymoon” as the video explains. Didymoon is part of the Didymos system.

By the way if the name Didymos is familiar, you may be thinking of of the didymo we see here on Earth.

ESA’s Lunar Agenda

The approach ESA is taking is sound, it will be interesting to see what they come up with.

ESA: This image of the Moon was taken by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst from the International Space Station during his Horizons mission. But he’s not the only one to be eyeing the Moon these days.

From 3 to 5 July, ESA is hosting a workshop on lunar exploration at its technical heart in the Netherlands. Building on ESA’s commitment to sustainable exploration, the workshop brings space experts and industry together to talk lunar resources and how to use them to return humanity to the Moon and farther afield.

For humans to live and work on the Moon and beyond, we need oxygen and water for life support as well as fuel and materials to build habitats and equipment. Launching these bulky consumables would cost the kind of money and energy that makes human exploration of the Solar System unsustainable.

Instead, ESA is looking into the capabilities that would allow humans to harness lunar resources for humanity’s sustainable return to the Moon. The approach is known as In-Situ Resource Utilisation. Put simply, it means extracting and processing resources on site to make useful products and services.

Last year, service providers with like-minded ideas were invited to take place in a one-year study exploring what a collaborative and commercially viable mission to the Moon would look like.

During this week’s workshop ESA is continuing this discussion with experts, industry officials, and potential new partners by exploring the technological readiness, commercial viability, legal status, and international context for lunar resource use.

In the meantime, the humans closest to our rocky satellite – astronauts on the International Space Station – are testing technologies such as remotely operating robots to take us a step closer to our next outpost in space.

Image: ESA / NASA


In North America the fireworks are the main event. Canada Day and the American Fourth of July; let me tell you now is a fun time to be there! hint: Canada, well Montreal (Quebec) has the BEST pizza, IMHO.

The firework display are not the only fireworks going on. The celestial fireworks are on a stupendous scale.

NASA – Like a July 4 fireworks display, a young, glittering collection of stars resembles an aerial burst. The cluster is surrounded by clouds of interstellar gas and dust – the raw material for new star formation. The nebula, located 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina, contains a central cluster of huge, hot stars, called NGC 3603.

Appearing colorful and serene, this environment is anything but. Ultraviolet radiation and violent stellar winds have blown out an enormous cavity in the gas and dust enveloping the cluster. Most of the stars in the cluster were born around the same time but differ in size, mass, temperature and color. The course of a star’s life is determined by its mass, so a cluster of a given age will contain stars in various stages of their lives, giving an opportunity for detailed analyses of stellar life cycles. NGC 3603 also contains some of the most massive stars known. These huge stars live fast and die young, burning through their hydrogen fuel quickly and ultimately ending their lives in supernova explosions.

Star clusters like NGC 3603 provide important clues to understanding the origin of massive star formation in the early, distant universe. Astronomers also use massive clusters to study distant starbursts that occur when galaxies collide, igniting a flurry of star formation. The proximity of NGC 3603 makes it an excellent lab for studying such distant and momentous events.

This Hubble Space Telescope image was captured in August 2009 and December 2009 with the Wide Field Camera 3 in both visible and infrared light, which trace the glow of sulfur, hydrogen, and iron.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, R. O’Connell (University of Virginia), F. Paresce (National Institute for Astrophysics, Bologna, Italy), E. Young (Universities Space Research Association/Ames Research Center), the WFC3 Science Oversight Committee, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

The Bright Spots on Ceres

The Dawn mission released this mosaic image of one of the bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres. The sodium carbonate (yes it’s washing soda) feature is basically a butte. How that would happen is puzzling.

NASA’s caption: This mosaic of a prominent mound located on the western side of Cerealia Facula was obtained by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on June 22, 2018 from an altitude of about 21 miles (34 kilometers).

The geometry of this feature is similar to a mesa or large butte with a flat top. It has been puzzling scientists since its discovery in the early images of the Dawn mission at Ceres. These new images reveal many details. In particular, the relationships between the bright material, mostly composed of sodium carbonate, and the dark background might hold clues about the origin of the facula. This feature is located at about 19.5 degrees north latitude and 239.2 degrees east longitude.


Hubblecast: Oumuamua

It seems the recent interstellar wanderer which passed through our solar system ended up getting a speed boost from the encounter.

What is that thing, an asteroid, a comet or what? Between you and me, it is reminiscent of an object I saw on one of the Star Trek movies, the one with the whales I think. Hubblecast doesn’t mention Star Trek but does examine the issue.

Astronaut David Saint-Jacques

Or I should say Canadian Astronaut David Saint-Jacques. We don’t hear a lot about the Canadian space program, other than the incredible Canadarm but don’t think for a second the Canadian Space Agency is not busy, they sure are.

So let’s meet David Saint-Jacques.

Space X to Launch CRS-15 REPLAY

NASA has scheduled the following mission for this morning provided there are no weather or technical issues. A replay link will be posted later in the day, provided there is a launch of course.

Mission: Commercial Resupply Service 15 (CRS-15)

Provider: SpaceX

Contracted to: NASA for ISS resupply

Rocket: Falcon 9 FT (Full Thrust)

Cargo Spaceship: Dragon

Spaceport: Cape Canaveral, Florida USA

Launch Site: SLC – 40

LAUNCH TIME: 05:42 ET / 09:42 UT– coverage to begin 15 minutes prior to flight.

Expected Weather Conditions (US NOAA): Overnight Thursday after 23:00 ET: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 76. South wind 5 to 10 mph.
Friday: Showers and thunderstorms likely. Partly sunny, with a high near 90. Heat index values as high as 103. Light and variable wind becoming southeast 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Cargo notes: Included among the more than 2,676 kg /5,900 lbs of supplies is support for the following: CIMON – the intelligent astronaut assistant, Chemical Gardens, ECOSTRESS, and BCAT-CS.