Blog Archives

Nine Years to the Ninth Planet

Yes, you read that right. In honor of Pluto’s imminent debut on computer screens worldwide, I’ll award it planetary status for the next few months. After all, when the New Horizons spacecraft nearing Pluto now was launched in January 2006,

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Posted in Planets, Solar System, Spacecraft

Cute Little CubeSats

What do this and this have in common? The first picture is of Lynchburg College’s 3.5-inch Questar telescope, a gift to the college from a long-time Board of Trustees member. For those who don’t know, Questar is to small telescopes

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Posted in Earth Science, Spacecraft

New Horizons Update

As the New Horizons spacecraft closes in on its July flyby of Pluto, its cameras capture ever higher resolution images.  Here is a link to the latest released images.  It’s starting to get real!

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Posted in Solar System, Spacecraft

Ceres Awaits

Dawn is sneaking up on Ceres from behind. On March 6, this well-traveled spacecraft slipped into orbit around the dwarf planet (or asteroid; take your pick) after having spent 14 months orbiting the asteroid Vesta and more than two years

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Posted in Solar System, Spacecraft

Getting to Pluto

What were you doing on January 19, 2006? If you were in any way connected to the New Horizons mission to Pluto, you were at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch it being launched on its long journey.

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Posted in Solar System, Spacecraft

Earth Calling Dawn

On March 6, the Dawn spacecraft was captured by the gravity of Ceres which is, depending on your preferences, either the largest asteroid of the solar system, or one of many dwarf planets. On its approach, Dawn’s cameras took these

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Posted in Solar System, Spacecraft

Dwarf Planets and New Planets, Oh My!

Just about the time that one NASA spacecraft is closing in on Ceres (formerly known as an asteroid, now semi-officially designated as a dwarf planet) and another nears its encounter with Pluto, a group of astronomers has suggested that there

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Posted in Planets, Spacecraft

First Steps to Deep Space

Tomorrow (December 4th) morning at 7:05 am EST, the first uncrewed test flight of NASA’s new human spacecraft will lift off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. For those of us who remember the Apollo moon flights of the

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Posted in human spaceflight, Spacecraft

What “Gravity” Gets Wrong

Let’s establish a few things at the very beginning. I love movies about space. I quite happily go along with improbabilities like warp drives, phasers, Vulcan mind melds and the concept that every extraterrestrial species we encounter will be remarkably

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Posted in human spaceflight, Spacecraft

Hurray For Plutonium!

Wait a minute! Isn’t plutonium that nasty stuff they make bombs from? Radioactive? The stuff Doc Brown stole from Libyans to fuel the Back to the Future DeLorean time machine? Well, yes…but there’s more to it than that. Plutonium exists

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Posted in Planets, Spacecraft