Distant Grind: Does Outer Space End – or Go on Forever?

Astronomers know a lot about what’s in outer space – and think it’s possible it never ends. By Dr. Jack SingalAssociate Professor of PhysicsUniversity of Richmond Introduction Right above you is the sky – or as scientists would call it, the atmosphere. It extends about 20 miles (32 kilometers) above the Earth. Floating around the atmosphere[…]

Distant Grind: NASA Returning to Venus’s Hot Surface to Answer Some Questions

The missions will use radar and a probe to learn about Earth’s hard-to-study and potentially prophetic neighbor. By Dr. Paul K. ByrneAssociate Professor of Planetary ScienceNorth Carolina State University Introduction NASA is finally headed back to Venus. On June 2, 2021, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced that the agency had selected two winners of its latest[…]

Distant Grind: The Largest Hurricane in the Solar System on Jupiter

The Great Red Spot has been observed since 1831. Continuous observation began in 1879. Curated/Reviewed by Matthew A. McIntoshPublic HistorianBrewminate Overview The Great Red Spot is a persistent high-pressure region in the atmosphere of Jupiter, producing an anticyclonic storm that is the largest in the Solar System. Located 22 degrees south of Jupiter’s equator, it produces wind-speeds up to 432 km/h (268 mph). Observations from 1665 to[…]

Distant Grind: Keeping an Eye on Space Rocks

JPL manages NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, which tracks comets and asteroids that drift close to Earth’s orbital neighborhood. Introduction A Near-Earth Object (NEO) is generally defined as an asteroid or comet that approaches our planet less than 1.3 times the distance from Earth to the Sun (the Earth-Sun distance is about 93 million[…]

Getting to the Icy Heart of Comets

What is inside a comet’s nucleus? Marshmallows? Chewy caramel? Nuts? Introduction A comet’s nucleus is in the center of its coma. A comet’s nucleus is like a snowball made of ice. As the comet nears the Sun, the ice starts to melt off, along with particles of dust. These particles and gases make a cloud around the[…]

Distant Grind: An Incorrect Hypothesis and the Trapped Water on Mars

New data challenges the long-held theory that all of Mars’s water escaped into space. By Robert PerkinsContent and Media Strategist / Emergency Communications CoordinatorCalifornia Institute of Technology Billions of years ago, the Red Planet was far more blue; according to evidence still found on the surface, abundant water flowed across Mars and forming pools, lakes,[…]

Putting the Universe under the Telescope over the Next Decade

The 2020s will use increasingly complex technology to ramp up our efforts to understand more about the Universe. Introduction We humans are a curious, questing lot, and the 2020s will see us continue to observe the Universe around us, trying to understand more about fundamental particles, forces, objects and relationships from both ground and space-based[…]

NESSI Emerges as New Tool for Researching Exoplanet Atmospheres

NESSI views the galaxy in infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye. By Elizabeth Landau The darkness surrounding the Hale Telescope breaks with a sliver of blue sky as the dome begins to open, screeching with metallic, sci-fi-like sounds atop San Diego County’s Palomar Mountain. The historic observatory smells of the oil pumped[…]

John Houboldt: The Man Who Bucked the System to Get Us to the Moon

A fundamental decision that led to the successful lunar landings came largely as a result of one man’s determination to buck the system at NASA. By Scott Neuman The Apollo program conjures images of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon and the massive team effort involved in getting him there. But a fundamental decision[…]

Cicero’s 2,000-Year-Old Dream in Ancient Rome Realized by Apollo 8 in 1968

Apollo 8 was the moment that humanity realized a dream conceived in our cultural imagination over two millennia ago. Introduction Half a century of Christmases ago, the NASA space mission Apollo 8 became the first manned craft to leave low Earth orbit, atop the unprecedentedly powerful Saturn V rocket, and head out to circumnavigate another[…]

Five Moon-Landing Innovations That Changed Life on Earth

The technologies behind weather forecasting, GPS and even smartphones can trace their origins to the race to the Moon. Much of the technology common in daily life today originates from the drive to put a human being on the Moon. This effort reached its pinnacle when Neil Armstrong stepped off the Eagle landing module onto[…]

Long before Armstrong and Aldrin, Artists Were Stoking Dreams of Space Travel

While the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing is an opportunity to celebrate a remarkable technological achievement, it’s worth reflecting upon the creative vision that made it possible. In the midst of the space race, Hereward Lester Cooke, the former co-director of the NASA Art Program, observed, “Space travel started in the imagination of the[…]

Women, Reproduction, and Patriarchal Views of Space Flight and Colonization in 1960s America

Early space age culture in America highlighted women’s reproductive capacity as a primary, crucial contribution that women could and inevitably would make to the space effort. It’s bedtime in middle-class, white America, October 1962. Little Billy and Little Susie pick out books for story time. Billy wants Mommy to read his favorite, Timothy’s Space Book. He[…]

Seeing the Invisible: A Short History of the Scientific Evidence of Dark Matter

About 85% of all matter in the universe consists of a mysterious, invisible, and as-of-yet unidentified substance dubbed “dark matter.” Everything you have ever touched, seen, or tasted; the air you breathe; the ground on which you stand; and the constituents of your body all consist of a type of matter that is only a[…]

After a Decade of Commercial Space Travel, What’s Next?

It has been 10 years since Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the commercial space age. What hurdles must be overcome before private companies begin exploring, colonizing and mining other planets? In many industries, a decade is barely enough time to cause dramatic change unless something disruptive comes along – a new technology, business model or service[…]

Was Sputnik Really the Beginning of the Space Age?

America had completed a series of successful launches into space and achieved many firsts well before Sputnik. Although you will often hear the notion that the space age began in 1957 with the launching of the Soviet-made artificial satellite known as Sputnik, the actual historical record is not so simple. While it is certainly correct[…]