The lastest edition of “This Week In Space” is now out! Give us a watch…
Hello, and welcome…
We have a scoop for you this week – an exclusive interview with SpaceX founder Elon Musk – we’ll ask him how things are going as he and his team prep for that high stakes first flight of the Falcon 9 rocket…And we’ll also share with you David Letterman’s reaction to seeing his first shuttle launch…that’s coming up shortly…But first some other space news – and this week in honor of the Falcon 9 countdown and Dave’s first launch – we are doing it top ten list style…
Comes from the fourth rock from the sun. (Miles mutters to himself and counts on his fingers). Mars! Yeah, Mars. On March 20, the rover Opportunity overtook the Viking-1 Lander and is now holds the surface longevity record for NASA probes on Mars. Opportunity is now six years, 116 days and counting into a 3 month mission. But if you are listening Oppy – don’t rest on your laurels. Your sibling Spirit on the other side of the planet is in winter hibernation mode, and if she manages to wake up come Spring, she will grab the record. Spirit landed on Mars about three weeks before Opportunity back in 2004. And as long as we are on Mars – the team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory commanded the the Mars Odyssey spacecraft to make a final listen for life signs from the Phoenix Mars Lander this week. Phoenix landed in the Northern polar region back in 2008, and operated successfully for about 6 months until the cold and dark of the Martian winter set in and craft went silent. Mission managers were pretty sure that the lander would not survive the winter, but figured it wouldn’t hurt to see if they might be able to reestablish communication. Looks like “no dice” though. Rest in Peace, Phoenix.
An update on a manned mission to Mars that is launching next month – had ya there for a minute didn’t I? Actually this is an ersatz trip to Mars that will never get off the ground. I am talking about the Mars 500 SIMULATED mission to the red planet. Liftoff – well actually lock down – is set for early June. Six crew members – two Europeans, one Chinese, and three Russians will spend 520 days locked inside a spacecraft mock-up at the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow. Mission controllers are doing their best to make this mission as close to the real thing as possible. They’ll have to take all the food they’ll need with them from day one – no ordering in pizza a la Biosphere 2. Communication is limited to email, – and it will be intermittent – just as it would on a really interplanetary voyage, and it will include a delay of as much as 40 minutes. ESA has picked their two crew members. Diego Urbina, who has Italian-Colombian nationality, and Frenchman Romain Charles. The rest of the crew will be announced later this month.
Oil’s not so well in the Gulf of Mexico – and NASA is pitching in to help. The space agency flew its King Air research aircraft over the Gulf of Mexico this week in an effort to help monitor the size and thickness of the BP oil spill…Researchers wondering how the oil might impact sea life. The Langley Based King Air 200 was outfitted with instruments normally used to study clouds and aerosols in the atmosphere – which researchers hope can help them learn more about spills. NASA satellites have also been trained on the oil slick since the drilling rig exploded in April. Crew members aboard the ISS have a unique vantage point to keep an eye on the growing environmental crisis. Cosmonaut Oleg Kotov has been watching the oil spread.