December 15, 2017, was another remarkable day for humanity’s space exploration journey: SpaceX launched a reused Dragon spacecraft atop a reused Falcon 9 rocket for the first time. The purpose of that Falcon 9 launch was to deliver over 2,200 kg (more than 4,800 pounds) of supplies, which include critical science instruments to the International Space Station. The mission was successful. After putting the Dragon spacecraft into orbit about 10 minutes after liftoff, Falcon 9 returned back and landed at Zone 1, a SpaceX facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
With that Falcon 9 launch, SpaceX, the American aerospace manufacturer, and space transport services company has moved one step closer to its dream of affordable, efficient reusable space flight. To date, SpaceX didn’t launch a pre-flown spacecraft atop a pre-flown rocket. But this time, both the Falcon 9 rocket and its payload have previous spaceflight experience. This Dragon spacecraft visited the ISS back in April 2015, and the Falcon 9 first stage launched a different Dragon toward the International Space Station in June 2017. This is the company’s 13th commercial cargo mission – also the 17th launch SpaceX has conducted in 2017, and the 20th successful first stage recovery overall for the company. Now, SpaceX can use this Falcon-9 rocket in future for the third time.
Using data from exoplanet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope and machine learning algorithm from Google, researchers discovered an 8th planet orbiting a distant star. The newly discovered planet is circling Kepler-90, a G-type main sequence star (Sun-like star), 2,545 light years from Earth. It is named Kepler-90i.
According to the press release from NASA, Kepler-90i is “a sizzling hot, rocky planet that orbits its star once every 14.4 day“. In this case, computers using Google’s machine learning algorithm, “learned” to identify planets by finding in Kepler data instances where the telescope recorded signals from planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets.
For the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 17 lunar landing mission, NASA has published an amazing website: “Apollo 17 in Real-time. The Last Mission to the Moon – A real-time journey through the Apollo 17 mission”. You can see the events in real-time either joining at 1 minute to the launch or in-progress, 45 years ago to the second.
On the website apollo17.org, you can access over 300 hours of audio, over 22 hours of video, over 4,200 photos and relive every moment as it occurred in 1972.
In December 2014, an underwater volcano has made a new island with a 120-meter (400-foot) summit in the South Pacific, between two older islands (Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’apai) in the kingdom of Tonga. NASA satellites captured the amazing process.
On December 19, 2014, Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, a volcano located about 30 kilometers (19 miles) south-southeast of Fonuafo’ou (also known as Falcon Island) in the kingdom of Tonga began erupting. The nearby tourists filmed the huge explosion. The eruption continued into 2015. On January 11, 2015, a tall ash cloud rising 9 kilometers (30,000 feet) into the sky, causing a number of other flights between New Zealand and Tonga were canceled. By January 16, when the plume cleared and the ash settled, a new island had been formed by the explosion. The new island also called Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai.
A very cool animation showing the orbits of NASA-related near-Earth science missions that are considered operational as of March 2017. These missions include both NASA-run missions as well as missions run by organizations that NASA has partnered with. Missions that enable science data collection (TDRS) are also included.
The historic Apollo mission control room in Houston is set to be fully restored by the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission in July 2019. It will provide a snapshot of how it looked during the Moon landing on July 20, 1969.
Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that landed the first two humans on the Moon. Mission commander Neil Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) and pilot Buzz Aldrin (born Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr.; January 20, 1930) landed the lunar module Eagle on July 20, 1969, at 20:18 UTC. A third astronaut, Michael Collins (born October 31, 1930) piloted the command module Columbia alone in lunar orbit while they were on the Moon’s surface. Armstrong became the first to step onto the lunar surface six hours after landing on July 21 at 02:56:15 UTC; Aldrin joined him about 20 minutes later. For the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Space Center Houston and the Apollo Flight Operations Association (AFOA) decided to restore historic mission control room in Houston. In July 2019, the room will be fully restored.
The commander of Expedition 53 (the 53rd expedition to the International Space Station), NASA astronaut Randy “Komrade” Bresnik has published a breathtakingly beautiful video on his twitter account. The video shows the International Space Station (ISS) night pass from Seattle down to Baja. What’s more, you can even see a meteor in the video, at 30th seconds!
On Sunday, December 3, there was a Supermoon, the Moon was at its closest point (for 2017) to Earth while it was also a full moon. A series of nighttime photos were taken by European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Paolo Nespoli to create this time-lapse of the Earth as seen from the International Space Station and the 2017 Supermoon rising above the horizon.
On Tuesday, November 28, 2017, a set of thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft successfully fired up for the first time since November 1980, after 37 years without use.
Voyager 1 is a space probe launched by NASA on September 5, 1977. Having operated for more than 40 years as of December 4, 2017, the spacecraft still communicates with the Deep Space Network to receive routine commands and return data. At a distance of 141 AUNotes 1 (2.11×1010 km), or approximately 13 billion miles (21 billion km) from the Sun as of November 22, 2017, it is NASA’s farthest and fastest spacecraft. It is also the only human-made object in interstellar space, within the environment between the stars.