The Space Roundup - Feb 20th, 2022
Hello, hello, my dear space lover!
Are you ready for yet another week of space awesomeness? 3, 2, 1, zero! Lift-off!
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This week we’ve known about the Polaris program. If you haven’t heard about it, take a sit: it’ll blow your mind.
SpaceX and Jared Isaacman have planned a three missions program starting this year. The first mission will take Isaacman and three other astronauts to the highest orbit since Gemini XI (1369 kilometers!! Remember the ISS is “just” 400kms above Earth), in the Van Allen radiation belt, which protects humans from space radiation. Once there, they’ll be able to study health-related issues, including the impact of radiation on humans, through several medical experiments. This will be crucial for future Moon and Mars missions.
Then, they’ll get down to a lower orbit (around 500 kilometers) to perform the first commercial spacewalk ever. Boum. Yes, they will test a new SpaceX EVA suit to get out of the spacecraft twice, and then they’ll come back home. Five days of experiments and massive excitement.
As if it wasn’t amazing enough, this mission will also be used as a way to raise funds for St Jude Children's Research Hospital. So inspiring!
NASA's Perseverance Celebrates First Year on Mars. A year already! Wow. "What has it achieved during this year?” - glad you ask! It’s taken lots of photos, recorded sounds, generated oxygen with Moxie, it’s collected samples, confirmed a watery past, confirmed part of the floor is lava, and discovered organic molecules… not bad!
Perseverance also recently broke a record for the most distance driven by a Mars rover in a single day, traveling more than 300 meters, and it was performed on auto-pilot. Amazing!
And what about Ingenuity? During this year, the Ingenuity Mars helicopter has flown 19 times, and it’s still strong to keep exploring the red planet. Way way way more than expected.
Still strong on Mars, the Curiosity rover captures amazing pics of martian clouds passing by. You got to see this footage, it’s so beautiful.
The Gateway keeps progressing! ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst visited Thales Alenia Space in Turin recently to test out and provide feedback on accommodations for the next human outpost in space, the lunar Gateway.
According to amateur satellite trackers, A Chinese spacecraft is testing out a new orbit around the moon. This spacecraft, which was involved in Chang’e-5 lunar sample-return mission is now in a distant retrograde orbit (DRO) of the moon, which is very important for long-duration missions, given how little fuel is needed to stay there. This orbit is also planned to be tested during the upcoming Artemis mission.
Mexican Moon robots!
I’ve talked about the army of robots that we are sending to the moon starting this year ( Japan’s Yaoki, UK’s Asagumo, US’s Iris, Emirate’s Rashid…) but this week I heard about the first Mexican Moon mission for the first time (sorry, amigos, my fault!). The mission, that is planned to land in June onboard Astrobotic’s Lunar Lander, is called COLMENA and it’s EXTREMELY cool: it consists of 5 little 12-cm rovers that will navigate the moon’s surface together to demonstrate exploring and survival capabilities by cooperating autonomously. Isn’t it beautiful? Go, Mexico!
More space awesomeness!
After reaching its destination, the James Webb Space Telescope captured an image of a star… or is it 18 images of a star? It is going to start now the calibration so that all the mirrors work together. Getting there!
Extra tower! SpaceX has begun the process of building Starship’s second launch tower, this time in Florida. Not FAA approval? No worries, new Starship launch site XD
And that’s it for this week!
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Cheers from sunny Spain!
Juan, the Curious Astronaut