What’s New at NASA

Blane Stoddart II, Staff Writer

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NASA, the government’s space exploration division, is perhaps best known for the moon landings of the 1960s. However, NASA is still hard at work today uncovering fascinating features of the solar system that expand our knowledge and understanding of both earth and other planets. Let’s take a look at some of the agency’s recent and upcoming projects.

Recent Happenings

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite: April 18, 2018

The T.E.S.S. is intended to discover exoplanets, which is the term for planets that lie outside of our solar system. The satellite has discovered several exoplanets so far, including LHS 3844 b and GJ 357 d (what creative names).

The InSight Mission: May 5, 2018

The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport (what a mouthful) is a robotic lander created to study the deep interior of Mars. NASA posts regularly on its website about InSight’s progress, including frequent updates with new photos of Mars. A problem InSight has run into is the solid soil on Mars: Insight is supposed to dig about 16 feet into Mars, yet has only managed to dig ¾ of an inch. Hopefully, slow and steady will win the race

Parker Solar Probe: August 12, 2018

This spacecraft will travel incredibly close to the sun, reaching a distance only 3.8 million miles from the sun’s surface (for reference, earth is nearly 93 million miles from the sun). The data collected from this mission is intended to provide more information on solar wind, or the charged particles that flow from the sun and cause Aurora Borealis (most commonly known as The Northern Lights). The probe has a heat shield intended to protect it from temperatures up to 2500 degrees Fahrenheit!

Launch of I.C.O.N: October 10, 2019

The Ionospheric Connection Explorer will study the boundary between earth’s atmosphere and outer space, which could lead to new insights on predicting weather on earth. Just a few days ago, ICON launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket at an altitude of 40,000 ft. This satellite was launched nearly two years behind schedule, which is not uncommon in the unpredictable field of space science and technology.

Upcoming Events

Resupply Mission to the International Space Station: November 2, 2019

Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) to the International Space Station (ISS) are not executed by NASA. Instead, NASA pays commercial companies like Northrop Grumman to transport materials to the ISS. There are currently six people living on the ISS, and the ship has been continuously inhabited since November of 2000.

Mars Rover: July 17, 2020

The main goal of the latest Mars mission was to explore the question of whether Mars is—or ever was—suitable for life. The rover  will collect data on the soil, air, and weather of the red planet. This rover is equipped with a tough drill, so it will hopefully dig more successfully than our poor friend InSight.

James Webb Space Telescope: March 30, 2021

This telescope is a major project that has been planned for over twenty years. The Hubble has been in use since 1990 and will probably need to be replaced within the next decade or so. James Webb will be the new-and-improved space telescope to continue the Hubble’s mission of using incredible imaging and mirroring technology to learn more about distant galaxies.

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