Category Archives: Space Exploration

GRAVITY and Gravity

In Alfonso Cuarón‘s Oscar-winning 2013 movie GRAVITY, actress Sandra Bullock‘s Dr. Ryan Stone makes an emergency entrance into an abruptly abandoned International Space Station. This month, European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti recreated this scene onboard the space station, as in … Continue reading

Posted in Adventure, Space Exploration | Leave a comment

Diffraction Limited

Yesterday, Webb optical telescope element manager Lee Feinberg said “We made the right telescope” while reporting that its focus has reached the  diffraction limit of 0.7 arcseconds at the infrared wavelength of 2 microns. (For comparison, from Earth, Luna subtends … Continue reading

Posted in Astronomy, Physics, Space Exploration | Leave a comment

Halo Orbit

The Webb telescope has fully deployed and arrived at its halo orbit about the second Earth-Sun Lagrange point. But how can it orbit an empty point in space? In the accompanying animation, a star (red) and planet (cyan) orbit their … Continue reading

Posted in Astronomy, Physics, Space Exploration | Leave a comment

Merlin & Raptor

The turbopump is the heart of most liquid-fueled rocket engines. Gas generator engines tap off and burn a little propellant to drive a turbine, which turns a centrifugal pump, which rapidly pushes the fuel and oxidizer to the combustion chamber, after the cryogenic … Continue reading

Posted in Space Exploration | Leave a comment

Astronomy Christmas Gift

I awoke early this Christmas morning to watch the successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. I remember the genesis of the telescope a quarter of a century ago when it was called the Next Generation Space Telescope. (The … Continue reading

Posted in Astronomy, Space Exploration | Leave a comment

Part Science, Part Art, Part Luck

Launched just last month, Lucy will be the first spacecraft to visit Jupiter’s trojan asteroids, rocky swarms that orbit about 60 degrees ahead and behind Jupiter in its orbit. Hal Levison, Lucy’s Principal Investigator, has described Lucy’s complicated trajectory, which includes an Earth … Continue reading

Posted in Astronomy, Space Exploration | Leave a comment

Punch it, SpaceX

She’s not looking up at the sky; she’s looking down at it. I am excitedly following the Inspiration4 spaceflight and its diverse all-private crew of Jared Isaacman, Sian Proctor, Christopher Sembroski, and Hayley Arceneaux. Orbiting higher than any humans this millennium and carrying … Continue reading

Posted in Adventure, Space Exploration | Leave a comment

21st Century Skyscraper

Recently at its Boca Chica launch site, SpaceX stacked a Starship on a Superheavy booster to briefly form history’s largest rocket, dwarfing the Apollo Saturn V. Both a fit-check and a statement, SpaceX released the photograph below in black & … Continue reading

Posted in Space Exploration | 1 Comment

Mars Sky Crane

At the NASA press conference today, chief engineer Adam Steltzner presented three iconic images of the space age: Armstrong’s photo of Aldrin on the lunar surface, Voyager 1’s photo of Saturn and its rings from above the ecliptic, the Hubble … Continue reading

Posted in Astronomy, Space Exploration | Leave a comment

Nightfall

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered a sextuply-eclipsing sextuple star system. I think of “Nightfall”. The six stars of TCY 7037-89-I orbit each other in three binary pairs, as in the schematic. The primaries are slightly larger and … Continue reading

Posted in Astronomy, Physics, Space Exploration | Leave a comment