Get Your Name on Mars

It is the last couple of weeks for you to put your name aboard the InSight lander to be launched in November of 2018.

If you have not done so, NASA has added a second microchip so there are MORE spots available for your name. Signing up is free and simple so click here and join me on the spacecraft! You have until 21 November 2017 to sign up, don’t forget to print out your boarding pass too.

JPL/Andrew Good – “Mars continues to excite space enthusiasts of all ages,” said Bruce Banerdt, the InSight mission’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “This opportunity lets them become a part of the spacecraft that will study the inside of the Red Planet.”

This fly-your-name opportunity comes with “frequent flier” points reflecting an individual’s personal participation in NASA’s exploration of Mars. These points span multiple missions and multiple decades. Participants who sent their names on the previous InSight opportunity in 2015 can download a “boarding pass” and see their “frequent flier” miles.

As part of this frequent flier program, a chip carrying the names of 1.38 million people also flew aboard the first flight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft in 2014. NASA is building Orion to carry astronauts to deep space destinations that will enable future missions to Mars.

After InSight, the next opportunity to earn frequent flier points will be NASA’s Exploration Mission-1, the first flight bringing together the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft to travel thousands of miles beyond the Moon in preparation for human missions to Mars and beyond.

InSight will be the first mission to explore Mars’ deep interior. The spacecraft will set down a seismometer to detect marsquakes and meteor strikes, using the seismic energy of these phenomena to study material far below the Martian surface. It also will deploy a self-hammering heat probe that will burrow deeper into the ground than any previous device on the Red Planet. These and other InSight investigations will improve our understanding about the formation and evolution of all rocky planets, including Earth.

InSight is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, in May of 2018.

Artwork: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Space X SES-11 Launch Replay

Here is a replay of yesterday’s Space X launch putting the EchoStar 105 satellite into a geosynchronous orbit.

The launch site is Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center.

The first stage landing site is the drone ship – “Of Course I Still Love You”

The launch is about 13 minutes into the video if you are in a hurry, but it is very informative so I highly recommend watching.

The re-entry of the first stage was rather interesting, different than the others. Watch and you will see what I mean.

Progress MS-07 Launch Scrubbed

If you were looking for the Progress Cargo ship launch it has been scrubbed until at least Saturday.

There was a fault of some type in the last minute of the countdown. We do not know what caused the fault as yet.

Next attempt 14 October. Launch window opens at around 07:42 UT / 03:42 ET – I will find out for sure and update.

The Landscape of Vera Rubin Ridge

A nice look at the landscape of Vera Rubin Ridge from the Curiosity rover on Mars. I was admiring the stratification. Then I noticed the scale – click the image for a larger view and see the scale on the lower right.

NASA – This view of “Vera Rubin Ridge” from the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows multiple sedimentary layers and fracture-filling deposits of minerals.

Buried layers of what is now a ridge became fractured, and the fractures were filled with mineral deposits precipitated from underground fluids that moved through the fractures.

ChemCam’s telescopic Remote Micro-Imager took the 10 component images of this mosaic on July 3, 2017, during the 1,745th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars.  The camera was about 377 feet (115 meters) away from the pictured portion of the ridge.  The rover’s location at the time, shown in a Sol 1741 traverse map, was west of the place where it began its ascent up the ridge about two months later.

The scale bar at lower right indicates how wide a feature 9 inches (22.8 centimeters) in width would look in the middle portion of the scene.

ChemCam is one of 10 instruments in Curiosity’s science payload. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, in Los Alamos, New Mexico, developed ChemCam in partnership with scientists and engineers funded by the French national space agency (CNES), the University of Toulouse and the French national research agency (CNRS). More information about ChemCam is available at


Trans Luminous Events

Trans Luminous Events or TLE’s occurring above thunderstorms have been an interest of mine since I first found about them during a Shuttle mission. Science@NASA just put out an episode about TLE’s.

During the episode they show footage from the STS-34 mission in 1989. I can’t say for sure that’s the one where I first learned about them, could be.

The International Space Station is adding to our knowledge of these events and the new additions recently made to the station will help along the way.

Incoming Asteroid! Not to Worry.

Here comes asteroid 2012 TC4. Despite a number of internet sites  talking about TC4 as if it is going to hit Earth the asteroid is going to safely pass by. Don’t buy into the doom-mongers click-bait.

Asteroid 2012 TC4 will flyby rather close to be sure.  On 12 October at 05:41 UT / 01:41 ET the asteroid will pass just 50,000 km / 31,000 miles or roughly 30 percent further away than our geosynchronous satellites.

2012 TC4 is about 15 meters / 50 ft and has a period of 1.67 years.  This time around it is going to be a great opportunity to learn what we can.  We will have some radar observations if all goes well and there will be plenty of telescopes aimed at it. The Goldstone radar is planning on observing the asteroid check out this page for a wealth of information.

Sooner or later we will have something to really worry about but probably not from 2012 TC4; in fact assuming nothing happens to change the predicted orbits this is as close it will get until 2079 (NEODyS2).


Image: ESA

Space X Launch – Replay

Here’s the replay in case you missed it. Thanks to Space Videos.

Another Space X launch. This one from Vandenberg AFB in California.

Launch time: 12:37 UT / 08:37 ET

Payload: Iridium 3 satellite.

After the launch, the first-stage will land on a drone ship in the Pacific. The drone ship’s name is “Just Read the Instructions”.

THEMIS Records Phobos

Normally the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera onboard the Odyssey orbiter is pointing towards the surface of Mars. Recently researchers developed a manuver to turn the orbiter around around so that a series of scans could be made of the Martian moon Phobos and they did just that on 29 September 2017.

The top image is a visible light image, actually part of a 19 image series that were put together into an animation. You can see the animation here (opens in a new tab) and the apparent motion you see is not from the motion of Phobos, rather it’s from the progression of the camera’s pointing during the 18-second span of the observation.

In bottom image the left edge of the small moon was in darkness, and the right edge in morning sunlight. Phobos has an oblong shape with average diameter of about 14 miles (22 kilometers). The distance to Phobos from Odyssey during the observation was about 3,424 miles (5,511 kilometers).

These and possibly future observations will allow researchers to analyze the surface-temperature information from this observation and possible future THEMIS observations to learn how quickly the surface warms after sunup or cools after sundown. That could provide information about surface materials, because larger rocks heat or cool more slowly than smaller particles do. The thermal information in this image is from merging observations made in four thermal-infrared wavelength bands, centered from 11.04 microns to 14.88 microns.

Phobos has an oblong shape with average diameter of about 14 miles (22 kilometers). Odyssey orbits Mars at an altitude of about 250 miles (400 kilometers), much closer to the planet than to Phobos, which orbits about 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) above the surface of Mars. The distance to Phobos from Odyssey during this observation was about 3,424 miles (5,511 kilometers).

THEMIS was developed by and is operated by a team based at Arizona State University, Tempe. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Odyssey mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the orbiter and partners in its operation. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Io and Europa

Another really great JunoCam image; this one processed by citizen scientist Roman Tkachenko.

NASA – This color-enhanced image of Jupiter and two of its largest moons — Io and Europa — was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it performed its eighth flyby of the gas giant planet.

The image was taken on Sept. 1, 2017 at 3:14 p.m. PDT (6:14 p.m. EDT). At the time the image was taken, the spacecraft was about 17,098 miles (27,516 kilometers) from the tops of the clouds of the planet at a latitude of minus 49.372 degrees.

Closer to the planet, the Galilean moon of Io can be seen at an altitude of 298,880 miles (481,000 kilometers) and at a spatial scale of 201 miles (324 kilometers) per pixel. In the distance (to the left), another one of Jupiter’s Galilean moons, Europa, is visible at an altitude of 453,601 miles (730,000 kilometers) and at a spatial scale of 305 miles (492 kilometers) per pixel.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko