Total Lunar Eclipse on May 26, 2021

The Moon

What is a Total Lunar Eclipse?

During a total lunar eclipse, the earth’s shadow falls across the moon’s face as the earth moves between the moon and the sun, and the moon is completely covered by earth shadow. The moon and the sun will then be lining up on exactly opposite sides of our planet.

This will be a total eclipse of the full moon and will also be a Super Moon which is when the moon is at its closest point to the earth. The moon will pass through the earth’s shadow.  The earth’s shadow is made up of two cone shaped components. The outer shadow is where the earth blocks part of the sun’s rays while the inner shadow, known as the umbra, is where the earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the moon.

According to NASA, if you make a point of watching the event tonight you may be in for a treat.  A total eclipse of the moon can often be a beautiful and interesting event.  There can be a number of secondary phenomena, especially during the time that the moon is entering and then emerging from the earth shadow.   This is why it is called a “Super Flower Blood Moon”.

When to see the Total Lunar Eclipse

The blood moon stage will occur at peak totality, which tonight will be at 11:16 GMT.

Total Lunar Eclipse May 26, 2021

The total lunar eclipse will be fully visible along the East Coast of Australia. The event will begin at 6:47 PM Brisbane time and reach the maximum eclipse at 9:18 PM Brisbane time. The eclipse will finish at 11:49 PM and the total duration will be 5 hours and two minutes.

Try not to miss this exciting and unique event, being a total eclipse of a supermoon, the first since January 2019.

Earthrise

Lunar Missions

The SpaceX Launch Program – Next Steps

NASA

On 30th May 2020, two NASA astronauts climbed inside a Crew Dragon space capsule and launched on top of a Falcon 9 rocket to fly to the International Space Station.

An Historic Mission

This SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch was historic for three main reasons…

1 They were the first astronauts to launch from American soil in nearly a decade.

2 Commercial companies are now in charge of both the design and production of space vehicles.

The vehicle was commercially made by the company SpaceX and not by NASA.  It was the culmination of NASA’s commercial crew program, and the first time a private company has ever launched humans into orbit.  Commercial companies are now in charge of both the design and production of space vehicles.

3 But the primary significance of this mission is that the US will no longer have to rely on Russia to get astronauts to and from the International Space Station.  

This could be the beginning of a very different era of human spaceflight.

The mission had a very different look from the space flights of the past.  SpaceX’s new crew capsule is called the Crew Dragon. It is designed specifically to launch on top of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.  Its chief purpose is to ferry people to and from low earth orbit.

The new capsule is fitted out with life support systems, sleek chairs and shiny touchscreen displays.  The astronauts’ custom-designed pressure suits are designed to keep them safe from the harsh environment of space if there is an emergency.  The astronauts control the crew dragon through their special touchscreen gloves.

SpaceX Automated Control Systems

The ISS (International Space Station) docking system, built into the capsule, is entirely automatic.  Using a sophisticated system of sensors and cameras, the vehicle can approach the International Space Station completely autonomously, and latch onto an ISS docking port.  (In 2019, the SpaceX spaceship, “Crew Dragon” flew unmanned to the International Space Station and docked automatically without any crew on board).

SpaceX can now use the capsule to create a new space tourism business.  In fact, the program is intended to kick-start the commercial space flight industry.

What are the next steps?

First, the two astronauts need to finish their mission. Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will spend a few weeks on board the International Space Station.

After that, they will climb back into the Crew Dragon and detach themselves from the space station. They will then make the perilous journey back to earth where a suite of parachutes will lower them gently into the ocean. They will then be retrieved by a SpaceX ship.

In the long term, this could become a standard operation for NASA, who are planning for private companies to build and deliver a Moon Lander vehicle onto the Moon.

This could be the beginning of a new space tourism program, commencing as early as 2021.

Read more about the SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Launch.

Read more about Space Exploration

SpaceX Launch to the International Space Station

Spacex launch

The Purpose

The SpaceX launch today, known as Demo-2, will once again permit the US to send humans into space.  Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will take off for the International Space Station at 3:22 p.m. EDT May 30, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida.  The SpaceX launch can be viewed live on NASA-TV

The rocket launch today will lay the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars, starting with NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024.

According to NASA, the Demo-2 mission is intended to demonstrate the ability of SpaceX to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station and back safely. The aim is to get the “Crew Dragon” astronaut carrier certified for more long-term manned missions into space.  

The Launch

The SpaceX rocket will lift off from the Florida launchpad 39A and two astronauts will be aboard the specially instrumented Falcon 9 rocket.  The rocket launch will be the second attempt, as the first attempt was aborted due to a potential lightning strike.

The two astronauts, after docking with the International Space Station, will join the crew on the space station.   NASA news of the SpaceX launch can be followed on the NASA website. After launch, the SpaceX mission will be monitored and controlled from the Johnson Space Centre in Houston Texas.

The Mission

The spacecraft has been built by the SpaceX company owned by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. The rocket launch today will be the first time that such a mission has been attempted by a privately owned company.  

The journey to space will take around 10 minutes. After about two minutes, the rocket will separate into a first-stage and a second-stage. The first stage will return to a SpaceX landing ship in the Atlantic Ocean whilst the second stage will continue the journey with the Crew Dragon capsule on board.  

The capsule will then separate from the second-stage and travel at 17,000 mph before being in position to rendezvous and dock with the Space Station, 24 hours later.

The Return

On conclusion of the mission, Crew Dragon will autonomously undock with the two astronauts on board, leave the space station and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Upon splashdown just off Florida’s Atlantic Coast, the crew will then be picked up at sea by SpaceX’s Go Navigator recovery vessel and return to Cape Canaveral.

The Future

Earth from Moon

The Demo-2 mission will be the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the Space Station.

This certification and regular operation of Crew Dragon will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place on board the station. 

Read more about the Artemis program

The Chinese Chang’e 4 Lunar Mission

China Lunar Rover

The Chinese Chang’e 4 Lunar Mission is a robotic spacecraft mission, being part of the second phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program.  It achieved the first soft landing on the far side of the Moon on 3rd January 2019.  

The far side of the moon, China space mission
The Far Side of The Moon

The mission is the follow-up to Chang’e 3, the first Chinese landing on the Moon.  Like its predecessors, the mission is named after Chang’e, the Chinese Moon goddess.  The spacecraft was originally built as a backup for Chang’e 3 and became available after Chang’e 3 landed successfully in 2013. The configuration of Chang’e 4 was adjusted to meet new scientific and performance objectives. 

Chinese Lunar Lander

The Chang’e 4 mission was first scheduled for launch in 2015 as part of the second phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. But the adjusted objectives and design of the mission created delays, and the launch did not happen until 7th December 2018.

The spacecraft entered lunar orbit on 12th December 2018 and the orbit’s perilune was lowered to 15 km (9.3 mi) on 30th December that year.  

The Landing Module touched down on 3rd January 2019 at 02:26 UTC, shortly after lunar sunrise over the Von Kármán crater in the large South Pole-Aitken basin.

The Stages of The Chang’e 4 Lunar Mission

Stage 1             A communication relay satellite, Queqiao, was first launched to a halo orbit near the Earth–Moon L2 point in May 2018.  

China Lunar Rover

Stage 2             The robotic lander and Yutu-2 rover were launched on 7th December 2018

Stage 3            The spacecraft entered lunar orbit on 12th December 2018

Stage 4            Landing on the Moon’s far side on 3rd January 2019

The Phases of The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program 

The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program was designed to be conducted in four phases of increasing technological advancement:

The first phase was simply reaching lunar orbit, a task completed by Chang’e 1 in 2007 and Chang’e 2 in 2010.

The second phase was landing and roving on the Moon, as Chang’e 3 did in 2013 and Chang’e 4 did in 2019.

The third phase is collecting lunar samples from the near-side and sending them to Earth, a task for the future Chang’e 5 and Chang’e 6 missions.

The fourth phase consists of development of a robotic research station near the Moon’s south pole.  The program aims to facilitate a manned lunar landing in the 2030s and possibly build an outpost near the south pole.  

This mission will attempt to determine the age and composition of an unexplored region of the Moon, as well as develop technologies required for later stages of the program.

Read more about Lunar Exploration

Welcome to “Artemis Day”

Artemis Rocket

“The Most Powerful Rocket Ever Built in Human History”… the rocket that will take humans to the Moon and beyond.

Jim Bridenstine

At NASA’s Michoud Assembly facility, located in New Orleans and known as “America’s Rocket Factory”, sits the largest rocket built since the Apollo Program.  The construction phase is now complete and on 9th December 2019, Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator, revealed the 212-foot rocket core stage.  This rocket will become the power source that will project the first Artemis mission into space. 

Artemis Project

The rocket will form part of the “Space Launch System” that will provide the power for Astronauts of the future to travel to destinations far into the solar system and explore other worlds close-up.

NASA is now working towards the exciting goal of landing the first woman on the Moon by 2024, just four years away.

Australia’s Space Exploration Program

Artemis

Dr. Christyl Johnson is NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre’s deputy director for technology and research investments. She manages the research and development portfolio and is responsible for formulating future technology goals and leading an integrated program of investments aligned to meet those goals.

Dr. Christyl Johnson

In a recent visit to Australia, Dr Johnson was asked about Australia’s role in NASA’s resurgent Space Program which includes putting the first woman on the moon as well as manned exploration of the planet Mars.

Returning to the moon will involve “bringing all the best and brightest ideas to the table at the same time.  When you bring all the resources together, there is nothing that’s impossible.”

Australia’s Involvement in exploring space

Australia has been involved since the beginning of the Apollo program and has many opportunities to contribute.

We now have laser communications that will make it possible for large amounts of data to be streamed back from Mars.  As we explore the caves and tunnels on Mars, children on Earth will be able to observe in real time.

How difficult will it be to build a space industry in Australia?

Dr Johnson says that Australia has many start-up companies that will have opportunities to direct their research and productivity towards the space program.

Dr Johnson says that the program will open up “a whole world of possibilities.”

Australia to support the US Space Program

The Moon
Mars
Australia supports the NASA mission to Mars

Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has announced that $150 million dollars will be set aside as a commitment by Australia to support the planned US mission to Mars.

After attending a State Dinner with US President Trump, Scott Morrison visited Nasa on 20th September 2019 and took the opportunity to make the announcement that the commitment will strengthen the ties between Australian business and NASA.

The investment in Australian business and technology will support NASA’s plans to launch expeditions to both the moon and to Mars.

Mr Morrison said that Australian businesses and researchers have “immense knowledge and capabilities in projects that can support NASA’s Moon to Mars mission, such as Project Artemis and the Lunar Gateway”.  He went on to state that…

“The Australian Space Agency will work closely with Nasa to identify how they can best support their missions, after the signing of a joint statement of intent on expanding cooperation”.

The Moon