Just like you conduct experiments in your science class, astronauts do experiments while in space. The zero gravity of space allows astronauts to carry out experiments that would not be possible in the gravity of Earth. There are more than 300 experiments currently happening aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
You’ve probably heard of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), but have you heard of the Italian Space Agency or the European Space Agency? NASA works with these groups, among others, to explore the frontiers of space together. It wasn’t always this way; Russia and the United States both devoted countless resources to beating each other to space in the 1960s. But today, through shared missions and space stations, we work cooperatively to explore the final frontier.
It’s unusual to know someone whose job includes sitting on top of a rocket awaiting launch into low Earth orbit. But on the morning of July 28, 2017, my colleague Marty Kelsey and I will watch a live broadcast of Randy “Komrade” Bresnik’s launch into space for the second time in his career. We met Bresnik earlier this year while he was training in Houston.
As a volunteer at the National Air and Space Museum, I’ve been talking to visitors about astronomy for 28 years. Right now is an exciting time to be volunteering here thanks to the total solar eclipse that will happen this summer. As an astronomy enthusiast and an eclipse chaser, I have some great advice to share on how best to view the 2017 eclipse.
My threshold for thrill-seeking ends at the Cyclone on Coney Island. It’s why astronauts have always captivated me. They are people who have said YES to travelling around the Earth at a top speed of 28,000 kilometers (17,500 miles) per hour; YES to being strapped to a launch vehicle that can consume more than 1.59 million kilograms (3.5 million pounds) of fuel in just 8 ½ minutes; and YES to calling the vacuum of space home for increasingly longer periods of time. They have made a career out of taking calculated risks. And they have worked tirelessly and competed aggressively to do so.
When John Grant was only 16, the Viking landers were sent to Mars. Today, Grant helps lead the operation groups controlling two Mars rovers, Opportunity and Curiosity, as a geologist at the National Air and Space Museum’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies. Recent data collected by Curiosity and published in Science describes an ancient lake environment located at Gale Crater—an environment Grant, a coauthor of the article, believes holds further clues to whether there was ever life on the Red Planet.
The United States will play host to an extraordinary phenomenon known as a total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth. Eclipses have occurred throughout history, and some have fascinating stories associated with them. Take the following two tales for example.
In late March, I traveled to Puerto Rico to conduct observations of Venus using the Arecibo Observatory telescope. It was the second time I traveled to the observatory to make radar measurements of the surface of Venus. Even though it was my second time there, the size and capability of the telescope still impressed me; the telescope is largest single-aperture telescope ever constructed.
Of the four known giant planets in our solar system, Jupiter is by far the largest. It is wider than 11 Earths side by side and has more mass than all the other seven planets combined. It is made up mostly of hydrogen and helium and has strong winds and storms.
On April 7, 2017, New Horizons entered a 157-day-long hibernation. New Horizons is an interplanetary space probe and is NASA’s first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. After operating steadily for almost two and a half years, the spacecraft and its systems deserve this much-needed break.
The Cassini spacecraft has spent almost 13 years exploring the beautiful giant planet Saturn and its amazingly diverse moons. Cassini’s mission will end in September when it plunges into Saturn’s atmosphere, but it will leave behind a wealth of knowledge and wonder.