Jokers please: first human Mars mission may need onboard comedians

Wanted: smart, fit and unflappable applicants for humanity’s first mission to Mars. Must have: crazy wig, oversized boots and a big red nose.

Wanted: smart, fit and unflappable applicants for humanity’s first mission to Mars. Must have: crazy wig, oversized boots and a big red nose.

It is enough to make Neil Armstrong spin in his grave, but researchers have found that the success of a future mission to the red planet may depend on the ship having a class clown.

Rather than the cool personality that underpinned the Right Stuff in the Apollo era, future astronauts may need to prove they have something very different: the Silly Stuff. An onboard comedian is a proven way to unite teams in stressful situations, research shows.

“These are people that have the ability to pull everyone together, bridge gaps when tensions appear and really boost morale,” said Jeffrey Johnson, an anthropologist at the University of Florida. “When you’re living with others in a confined space for a long period of time, such as on a mission to Mars, tensions are likely to fray. It’s vital you have somebody who can help everyone get along, so they can do their jobs and get there and back safely. It’s mission critical.”

Johnson spent four years studying overwintering crews in Antarctica and identified the importance of clowns, leaders, buddies, storytellers, peacemakers and counsellors for bonding teams together and making them work smoothly. He found the same mixes worked in US, Russian, Polish, Chinese and Indian bases.

“These roles are informal, they emerge within the group. But the interesting thing is that if you have the right combination the group does very well. And if you don’t, the group does very badly,” he said.

The view across Elysium Planitia, the vast lava plain near the equator of Mars, taken by Nasa’s InSight lander in November 2018.

The view across Elysium Planitia, the vast lava plain near the equator of Mars, taken by Nasa’s InSight lander in November 2018. Photograph: EPA

Nasa plans to fly astronauts around the moon in 2023 as part of its preparation for a crewed mission to Mars as early as 2033. The Russian and Chinese space agencies have proposed human missions from 2040 onwards. Private ventures such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX have also set their sights on the planet.

But a mission to Mars is no cakewalk. On average, the red planet is 140m miles from Earth and the travel time one way is around eight months. The distance alone is expected to take a psychological toll, but astronauts must also face a time delay in communications of up to 20 minutes each way. In an emergency, there will be no time to call mission control: the crew are effectively on their own.

Even minor delays in communication are bad for crews. When Nasa tested a 50 second communications delay on astronauts on the international space station, they found well-being slumped and frustration rose, with knock-on effects for how efficiently tasks got done.

Johnson is now working with Nasa to explore whether clowns and other characters are crucial for the success of long space missions. So far he has monitored four groups of astronauts who spent 30 to 60 days in the agency’s mock space habitat, the Human Exploration Research Analog, or Hera, in Houston, Texas.

“We now want to see if these types of informal role dynamics function similarly in space-simulated environments,” Johnson said at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington DC. Early results suggest they do, he said.

Johnson, who also studied isolated salmon fishers in Alaska, found that clowns were often willing to be the butt of jokes and pranks. In Antarctica, one clown he observed endured a mock funeral and burial in the tundra, but was crucial for building bridges between clusters of overwintering scientists and between contractors and researchers, or “beakers” as the contractors called them.

The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen appreciated the importance of the expedition clown, Johnson said. In 1910, Amundsen picked the large, jolly chef Adolf Lindstrøm for his attempt on the South Pole, knowing that Lindstrøm’s joie de vivre would relieve the stress of homesickness and the long polar nights. “He has rendered greater and more valuable services to the Norwegian polar expedition than any other man,” Amundsen noted in his diary.

Johnson said: “Lindstrøm was viewed by others as a great entertainer who helped maintain spirits and morale over the long austral winter. His role was informal but critical for maintaining group cohesion in this extreme environment.

“Scott’s polar expedition was radically different. The crew broke into cliques, they didn’t have a cohesive group.”

But, as Lindstrøm showed, there is more to it than making people laugh. “Being funny won’t be enough to land somebody the job,” Johnson added.

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NASA mulls buying new rides to space from Russia amid programme delays

NASA awarded $6.8 billion to SpaceX, founded by Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk, and aerospace giant Boeing to develop separate launch …

By Joey Roulette

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – NASA said on Friday it was weighing an option to buy two additional astronaut seats aboard a Russian rocket as a contingency plan against further delays in the launch systems being developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Boeing Co.

A possible purchase “provides flexibility and back-up capability” as the companies build rocket-and-capsule launch systems to return astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) from U.S. soil for the first time since NASA’s Space Shuttle program went dark in 2011.

The U.S. space agency has since had to rely on Russia’s Roscosmos program to ferry astronauts to the orbital space station at a cost of roughly $80 million (£62.1 million) per seat, NASA has said.

After 2019 there are no seats available on the spacecraft for U.S. crew, and a NASA advisory panel recommended on Friday that the U.S. space program develop a contingency plan to guarantee access to the station in case technical problems delay Boeing and SpaceX any further.

A NASA spokesman on Friday characterized a solicitation request NASA filed on Wednesday as a contingency plan. NASA said it could buy a seat for one astronaut in the fall and another seat in the spring of 2020.

“The absence of U.S. crew members at any point would diminish ISS operations to an inoperable state,” NASA wrote in its solicitation on Wednesday.

NASA awarded $6.8 billion to SpaceX, founded by Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk, and aerospace giant Boeing to develop separate launch systems to fly astronauts to space, but both companies have faced technical challenges and delays.

NASA announced another slip last week, citing concerns for both contractors such as the need to complete hardware testing and other factors. The U.S. space agency said SpaceX was now targeting March 2 instead of Feb. 23 for its un-crewed Crew Dragon test flight, with its astronaut flight coming in July.

NASA said Boeing’s un-crewed CST-100 Starliner would fly no sooner than April, with Boeing’s crewed mission is currently slated for August.

“Typically, problems will be discovered during these test flights,” NASA wrote.

(Reporting by Joey Roulette in Orlando, Florida; editing by Eric M. Johnson and G Crosse)

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NASA mulls buying new rides to space from Russia amid program delays

NASA awarded $6.8 billion to SpaceX, founded by Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk, and aerospace giant Boeing to develop separate launch …

By Joey Roulette

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – NASA said on Friday it was weighing an option to buy two additional astronaut seats aboard a Russian rocket as a contingency plan against further delays in the launch systems being developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Boeing Co.

A possible purchase “provides flexibility and back-up capability” as the companies build rocket-and-capsule launch systems to return astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) from U.S. soil for the first time since NASA’s Space Shuttle program went dark in 2011.

The U.S. space agency has since had to rely on Russia’s Roscosmos program to ferry astronauts to the orbital space station at a cost of roughly $80 million per seat, NASA has said.

After 2019 there are no seats available on the spacecraft for U.S. crew, and a NASA advisory panel recommended on Friday that the U.S. space program develop a contingency plan to guarantee access to the station in case technical problems delay Boeing and SpaceX any further.

A NASA spokesman on Friday characterized a solicitation request NASA filed on Wednesday as a contingency plan. NASA said it could buy a seat for one astronaut in the fall and another seat in the spring of 2020.

“The absence of U.S. crew members at any point would diminish ISS operations to an inoperable state,” NASA wrote in its solicitation on Wednesday.

NASA awarded $6.8 billion to SpaceX, founded by Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk, and aerospace giant Boeing to develop separate launch systems to fly astronauts to space, but both companies have faced technical challenges and delays.

NASA announced another slip last week, citing concerns for both contractors such as the need to complete hardware testing and other factors. The U.S. space agency said SpaceX was now targeting March 2 instead of Feb. 23 for its un-crewed Crew Dragon test flight, with its astronaut flight coming in July.

NASA said Boeing’s un-crewed CST-100 Starliner would fly no sooner than April, with Boeing’s crewed mission is currently slated for August.

“Typically, problems will be discovered during these test flights,” NASA wrote.

(Reporting by Joey Roulette in Orlando, Florida; editing by Eric M. Johnson and G Crosse)

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Next month’s SpaceX launch could help end America’s reliance on Russian rockets

On March 2, if the weather proves favorable, SpaceX will finally launch its first spacecraft designed for human spaceflight, the Crew Dragon (a.k.a …

It’s been nearly eight years since American astronauts last launched into space from American soil. When NASA shuttered the Space Shuttle Program in 2011, it did so under the hopes that the private industry would be willing and able to take a huge step forward and partner with the agency to ferry astronauts back and forth between the International Space Station, as well as other potential low Earth orbit destinations.

That vision is finally on the cusp of becoming reality. It just took much longer than we all hoped it would.

On March 2, if the weather proves favorable, SpaceX will finally launch its first spacecraft designed for human spaceflight, the Crew Dragon (a.k.a Dragon 2), into space, as part of its partnership with NASA under the Commercial Crew Program. There won’t be any humans going up on this test flight (called Demo-1). But if everything goes right, it will be the prelude to a crewed test flight (Demo-2) featuring two astronauts in July, finally ending eight years of American reliance on Russia for its human spaceflight needs, and returning the country to independence once again.

“There’s a mixture of feelings,” says Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. “I don’t want to speak for the entire team, but for me personally, I have a combination of excitement and a little bit of anxiousness.”

How did we come to rely on Russian rockets?

Even before formally retiring the Space Shuttle program, NASA was already thinking about potential replacements. In 2010, after ending the Constellation program and its plans to send humans back to the moon, the Obama administration decided to shift the agency’s human spaceflight focus toward developing the Space Launch System and the Orion deep space crew vehicle. This supported the more general goal to send humans to Mars sometime during the 2030s.

And while NASA focused on developing and testing new deep space exploration technologies, it could turn over its needs for getting to low Earth orbit to the private industry, which could ferry astronauts to and from the ISS and find its “space legs” as it developed its own technologies. The agency would simply partner with Russia in the meantime, getting its astronauts to the ISS through Soyuz missions launching from Kazakhstan for a few years. It was a win-win all around.

Thus, in 2014, the Commercial Crew Program was officially born. The agency signed contracts with Boeing and SpaceX, tasking the companies with developing and testing new spacecraft that could basically work as a lower-cost, more efficient, safer replacement of the Space Shuttle. At the time, NASA was already seeing great success with its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program, which effectively contracted out ISS cargo shipment needs to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences (later Orbital ATK, and recently bought by Northrop Grumman). It was an extraordinarily successful partnership, and NASA believed it could emulate this same paradigm as a part of its human spaceflight operations as well.

Unfortunately, CCP has been plagued with delays from virtually the outset. The original goal was to have SpaceX and Boeing strike for their first crewed missions by 2017. Two years later, both companies have yet to launch even an empty spacecraft into orbit. SpaceX’s delay of Demo-1 into next month seems more like business as usual at this point. (Boeing is aiming for its first uncrewed flight test no earlier than April, and its first crewed flight to take place in the late summer.)

Meanwhile, the U.S. is heading into its eighth year of procuring seats aboard Soyuz launches for getting its astronauts to the space station—and that has been far from a peaceful, reliable process. Amidst deteriorating relations between Washington and Moscow, NASA and Roscosmos (Russia’s space agency) have done their best to keep ISS operations running smoothly. But Russia’s decreased involvement with the ISS has limited the number of seats available to the U.S., at increased prices that have cost NASA billions of dollars. SpaceX and Boeing don’t shoulder all the blame (Congress is arguably most at fault for inadequately funding the CCP early on), but they may already be feeling the effects of those frustrations: according to SpaceNews, schedule certainty was a factor for NASA choosing to go with United Launch Alliance instead of SpaceX for the upcoming Lucy mission to the Trojan asteroids near Jupiter, launching in October 2021. (SpaceX has chosen to protest the contract, arguing it could launch Lucy for less money.)

The bottom line is, American access to the ISS has been relegated to a precarious and costly situation. NASA’s access to the space station through Russia effectively ends in September, so any more delays could mean the U.S. loses access to the ISS entirely for a while.

What’s taking so long?

McAlister counters that while the perception from the outside is a program riddled with delays and waiting, the mood behind the scenes is genial and relatively calm. “When you look historically at how long human spaceflight hardware takes to be developed, [CCP] has been a fairly quick development cycle,” he says. “I know we’ve slipped the schedule a couple of times, so people may think, ‘oh they’ve taken so long,’ but… we signed the contracts in September 2014. Four years later, to be talking about having our first test flights, really isn’t that long in the grand scheme things.”

It’s true: While the Crew Dragon is ostensibly an upgraded version of the original Dragon vehicle, it needs to be ready to house people for spaceflight—and that takes time. Companies must design comfortable and safe seating, an escape system, windows, dashboards for the crew to use to manage controls, and much more.

And from NASA’s perspective, the delays are not all that unexpected. “Generally,” says McAlister, “in the aerospace industry, we tend to like to establish aggressive schedules upfront.” This provides an incentive for the teams to move efficiently and leaves ample time for adjustments when obstacles and challenges come up. This mindset also explains why NASA frequently pushes back its own deadlines. The culture McAlister and his team have tried to instill is inspired by the late UCLA basketball coach John Wooden: “Be quick—but don’t hurry.”

Not even this year—the year of the test flights—is immune to schedule changes. “This next year is probably going to be one of the hardest years we’ve ever had,” says McAlister. “We’re going to have issues we need to address. Every launch has risks associated with their schedules.”

Has it been worth it?

That depends on how you look at it. There’s no question both the Crew Dragon and the Starliner will act as cost-efficient flight systems in the long run. The average Space Shuttle launch cost about $450 million. Neither new spacecraft should cost that much—SpaceX in particular, thanks to its masterful work in proving the viability of reusable rockets. Every launch of the Falcon 9 rocket (which will take Crew Dragon into space) costs only about $62 million. Astronaut launches will presumably not cost much more.

In addition, both spacecraft will feature much better safety systems than were available on the Space Shuttle and other previous spaceflight systems. Both utilize what’s called a “pusher escape system” for launch abort sequences. In this scenario, during an anomaly that requires an abort, the system pushes the spacecraft away from the high-powered engines instead of pulling them, so you still have a propulsion system for maneuvering and altitude adjustment as the crew capsule returns to Earth.

Lastly, the CCP’s approach means NASA doesn’t have to rely on a single launch provider for its needs. “I think that has been a huge benefit for NASA,” says McAlister. It’s important for the government to not be dependent on any single system [alone].”

The recent mid-flight abort of the Soyuz MS-10 launch to the ISS underscores this point. The Russian Soyuz spaceflight system is one of the safest crew vehicles around, having been used for decades on hundreds of successful launches in orbit. “Even with all that flight heritage, it had a failure,” says McAlister. “When you’re depending on a single supplier… it really increases risks.” Multiple suppliers mean multiple options when one company runs into a hiccup.

Everyone is anxiously waiting for the U.S. to return to spaceflight independence, but the CCP’s success could extend beyond just ISS missions. If Demo-1 goes smoothly and the rest of the year’s flights manage to send astronauts into space and back, the agency might very well start asking whether it can expand these types of partnerships to other areas of spaceflight as well, and leverage these technologies for other capabilities. NASA’s already developing its own spaceflight systems for future travel to the moon, Mars, and potentially elsewhere, but it’s certainly not outlandish to think a future version of the Crew Dragon—one designed for deep space missions—could play a role in those plans. For now, let’s just hope next month’s launch goes off without a hitch.

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX to have launches reviewed by Pentagon

The Pentagon will review rocket launches by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, it has said. The certification that allows the company to send launch vehicles into …

The Pentagon will review rocket launches by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, it has said.

The certification that allows the company to send launch vehicles into space will be reviewed to check that the US Air Force complied with the requisite guidelines, investigators said in a memo.

“Our objective is to determine whether the U.S. Air Force complied with the Launch Services New Entrant Certification Guide when certifying the launch system design for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle-class SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles,” wrote US Department Of Defense Deputy Inspector General Michael Roark.

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SpaceX successfully launched its first national security space mission for the US in December. One of its rockets carried a military navigation satellite into space from Florida’s Cape Canaveral, marking a major moment for Mr Musk’s company.

The US government hopes that many space missions will eventually be taken over by private companies such as SpaceX and its competitors, with the hope that it could make launches cheaper.

ShapeCreated with Sketch.Nasa’s most stunning pictures of space

Show all 30
leftCreated with Sketch.rightCreated with Sketch.

1/30 Earth from the ISS

From the International Space Station, Expedition 42 Flight Engineer Terry W. Virts took this photograph of the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Gulf Coast at sunset
Nasa

2/30 Frosty slopes of Mars

This image of an area on the surface of Mars, approximately 1.5 by 3 kilometers in size, shows frosted gullies on a south-facing slope within a crater. The image was taken by Nasa’s HiRISE camera, which is mounted on its Mars Reconaissance Orbiter
Nasa

3/30 Orion Capsule splashes down

The Orion capsule jetted off into space before heading back a few hours later — having proved that it can be used, one day, to carry humans to Mars
Nasa

4/30 The Soyuz TMA-15M rocket launch

The Soyuz TMA-15M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, carrying three new astronauts to the International Space Station. It also took caviar, ready for the satellite’s inhabitants to celebrate the holidays
Nasa

5/30 Yellowstone from space

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman shared this image of Yellowstone via his twitter account
Nasa

6/30 Black Hole Friday

Nasa celebrated Black Friday by looking into space instead — sharing pictures of black holes
Nasa

7/30 NuSTAR

X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)
Nasa

8/30 Saturn

This near-infrared color image shows a specular reflection, or sunglint, off of a hydrocarbon lake named Kivu Lacus on Saturn’s moon Titan
Nasa

9/30 Worlds Apart

Although Mimas and Pandora, shown here, both orbit Saturn, they are very different moons. Pandora, “small” by moon standards (50 miles or 81 kilometers across) is elongated and irregular in shape. Mimas (246 miles or 396 kilometers across), a “medium-sized” moon, formed into a sphere due to self-gravity imposed by its higher mass
Nasa

10/30 Solar Flare

An X1.6 class solar flare flashes in the middle of the sun in this image taken 10 September, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory
Nasa

11/30 Solar Flare

An image from Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) shows a 200,000 mile long solar filament ripping through the Sun’s corona in September 2013
Nasa

12/30 Cassiopeia A c

A false colour image of Cassiopeia A comprised with data from the Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes and the Chandra X-Ray observatory
Nasa

13/30 Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy

An image of the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy seen in infrared light by the Herschel Space Observatory. Regions of space such as this are where new stars are born from a mixture of elements and cosmic dust
Nasa

14/30 Mars Rover Spirit

Nasa’s Mars Rover Spirit took the first picture from Spirit since problems with communications began a week earlier. The image shows the robotic arm extended to the rock called Adirondack
Nasa

15/30 Morning Aurora From the Space Station

Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly captured this photograph of the green lights of the aurora from the International Space Station

16/30 Launch of History – Making STS-41G Mission in 1984

The Space Shuttle Challenger launches from Florida at dawn. On this mission, Kathryn Sullivan became the first U.S. woman to perform a spacewalk and Marc Garneau became the first Canadian in space. The crew of seven was the largest to fly on a spacecraft at that time, and STS-41G was the first flight to include two female astronauts

17/30 A Fresh Perspective on an Extraordinary Cluster of Galaxies

Galaxy clusters are often described by superlatives. After all, they are huge conglomerations of galaxies, hot gas, and dark matter and represent the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity

18/30 Veil Nebula Supernova Remnant

Nasa’s Hubble Space Telescope has unveiled in stunning detail a small section of the Veil Nebula – expanding remains of a massive star that exploded about 8,000 years ago

19/30 Hubble Sees a Galactic Sunflower

The arrangement of the spiral arms in the galaxy Messier 63, seen here in an image from the Nasa Hubble Space Telescope, recall the pattern at the center of a sunflower

20/30 A Hubble Cosmic Couple

The spectacular cosmic pairing of the star Hen 2-427 — more commonly known as WR 124 — and the nebula M1-67 which surrounds it

21/30 Pluto image

Four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with colour data from the Ralph instrument to create this enhanced colour global view of Pluto

22/30 Fresh Crater Near Sirenum Fossae Region of Mars

The HiRISE camera aboard Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter acquired this closeup image of a “fresh” (on a geological scale, though quite old on a human scale) impact crater in the Sirenum Fossae region of Mars. This impact crater appears relatively recent as it has a sharp rim and well-preserved ejecta

23/30 Earth Observations From Gemini IV in 1965

This photograph of the Florida Straits and Grand Bahama Bank was taken during the Gemini IV mission during orbit no. 19 in 1965. The Gemini IV crew conducted scientific experiments, including photography of Earth’s weather and terrain, for the remainder of their four-day mission following Ed White’s historic spacewalk on June 3

24/30 Nasa Celebrates 50 Years of Spacewalking

For 50 years, NASA has been “suiting up” for spacewalking. In this 1984 photograph of the first untethered spacewalk, NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless is in the midst of the first “field” tryout of a nitrogen-propelled backpack device called the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU)

25/30 Hubble Peers into the Most Crowded Place in the Milky Way

This Nasa Hubble Space Telescope image presents the Arches Cluster, the densest known star cluster in the Milky Way

26/30 An Astronaut’s View from Space

Nasa astronaut Reid Wiseman tweeted this photo from the International Space Station on 2 September 2014

27/30 Giant Landform on Mars

On Mars, we can observe four classes of sandy landforms formed by the wind, or aeolian bedforms: ripples, transverse aeolian ridges, dunes, and what are called “draa”

28/30 Expedition 39 Landing

A sokol suit helmet can be seen against the window of the Soyuz TMA-11M capsule shortly after the spacecraft landed with Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan

29/30 Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Viewed by Voyager I

30/30 Chandra Observatory Sees a Heart in the Darkness

1/30 Earth from the ISS

From the International Space Station, Expedition 42 Flight Engineer Terry W. Virts took this photograph of the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Gulf Coast at sunset
Nasa

2/30 Frosty slopes of Mars

This image of an area on the surface of Mars, approximately 1.5 by 3 kilometers in size, shows frosted gullies on a south-facing slope within a crater. The image was taken by Nasa’s HiRISE camera, which is mounted on its Mars Reconaissance Orbiter
Nasa

3/30 Orion Capsule splashes down

The Orion capsule jetted off into space before heading back a few hours later — having proved that it can be used, one day, to carry humans to Mars
Nasa

4/30 The Soyuz TMA-15M rocket launch

The Soyuz TMA-15M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, carrying three new astronauts to the International Space Station. It also took caviar, ready for the satellite’s inhabitants to celebrate the holidays
Nasa

5/30 Yellowstone from space

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman shared this image of Yellowstone via his twitter account
Nasa

6/30 Black Hole Friday

Nasa celebrated Black Friday by looking into space instead — sharing pictures of black holes
Nasa

7/30 NuSTAR

X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)
Nasa

8/30 Saturn

This near-infrared color image shows a specular reflection, or sunglint, off of a hydrocarbon lake named Kivu Lacus on Saturn’s moon Titan
Nasa

9/30 Worlds Apart

Although Mimas and Pandora, shown here, both orbit Saturn, they are very different moons. Pandora, “small” by moon standards (50 miles or 81 kilometers across) is elongated and irregular in shape. Mimas (246 miles or 396 kilometers across), a “medium-sized” moon, formed into a sphere due to self-gravity imposed by its higher mass
Nasa

10/30 Solar Flare

An X1.6 class solar flare flashes in the middle of the sun in this image taken 10 September, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory
Nasa

11/30 Solar Flare

An image from Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) shows a 200,000 mile long solar filament ripping through the Sun’s corona in September 2013
Nasa

12/30 Cassiopeia A c

A false colour image of Cassiopeia A comprised with data from the Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes and the Chandra X-Ray observatory
Nasa

13/30 Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy

An image of the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy seen in infrared light by the Herschel Space Observatory. Regions of space such as this are where new stars are born from a mixture of elements and cosmic dust
Nasa

14/30 Mars Rover Spirit

Nasa’s Mars Rover Spirit took the first picture from Spirit since problems with communications began a week earlier. The image shows the robotic arm extended to the rock called Adirondack
Nasa

15/30 Morning Aurora From the Space Station

Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly captured this photograph of the green lights of the aurora from the International Space Station

16/30 Launch of History – Making STS-41G Mission in 1984

The Space Shuttle Challenger launches from Florida at dawn. On this mission, Kathryn Sullivan became the first U.S. woman to perform a spacewalk and Marc Garneau became the first Canadian in space. The crew of seven was the largest to fly on a spacecraft at that time, and STS-41G was the first flight to include two female astronauts

17/30 A Fresh Perspective on an Extraordinary Cluster of Galaxies

Galaxy clusters are often described by superlatives. After all, they are huge conglomerations of galaxies, hot gas, and dark matter and represent the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity

18/30 Veil Nebula Supernova Remnant

Nasa’s Hubble Space Telescope has unveiled in stunning detail a small section of the Veil Nebula – expanding remains of a massive star that exploded about 8,000 years ago

19/30 Hubble Sees a Galactic Sunflower

The arrangement of the spiral arms in the galaxy Messier 63, seen here in an image from the Nasa Hubble Space Telescope, recall the pattern at the center of a sunflower

20/30 A Hubble Cosmic Couple

The spectacular cosmic pairing of the star Hen 2-427 — more commonly known as WR 124 — and the nebula M1-67 which surrounds it

21/30 Pluto image

Four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with colour data from the Ralph instrument to create this enhanced colour global view of Pluto

22/30 Fresh Crater Near Sirenum Fossae Region of Mars

The HiRISE camera aboard Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter acquired this closeup image of a “fresh” (on a geological scale, though quite old on a human scale) impact crater in the Sirenum Fossae region of Mars. This impact crater appears relatively recent as it has a sharp rim and well-preserved ejecta

23/30 Earth Observations From Gemini IV in 1965

This photograph of the Florida Straits and Grand Bahama Bank was taken during the Gemini IV mission during orbit no. 19 in 1965. The Gemini IV crew conducted scientific experiments, including photography of Earth’s weather and terrain, for the remainder of their four-day mission following Ed White’s historic spacewalk on June 3

24/30 Nasa Celebrates 50 Years of Spacewalking

For 50 years, NASA has been “suiting up” for spacewalking. In this 1984 photograph of the first untethered spacewalk, NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless is in the midst of the first “field” tryout of a nitrogen-propelled backpack device called the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU)

25/30 Hubble Peers into the Most Crowded Place in the Milky Way

This Nasa Hubble Space Telescope image presents the Arches Cluster, the densest known star cluster in the Milky Way

26/30 An Astronaut’s View from Space

Nasa astronaut Reid Wiseman tweeted this photo from the International Space Station on 2 September 2014

27/30 Giant Landform on Mars

On Mars, we can observe four classes of sandy landforms formed by the wind, or aeolian bedforms: ripples, transverse aeolian ridges, dunes, and what are called “draa”

28/30 Expedition 39 Landing

A sokol suit helmet can be seen against the window of the Soyuz TMA-11M capsule shortly after the spacecraft landed with Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan

29/30 Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Viewed by Voyager I

30/30 Chandra Observatory Sees a Heart in the Darkness

The review comes at a difficult time for SpaceX, which said last month that it would sack about 10 per cent of its more than 6,000 employees. It said then that it was facing “extraordinarily difficult challenges”.

The memo to SpaceX – which requested to speak to someone familiar with the certification, and said investigations would begin in February – did not say why specifically the new review had been launched, or whether there was any likelihood that the certification itself would be changed.

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