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

Martian Landing Today

Mars

NASA’s Perseverance rover is about to guide itself to the surface of Mars in the most precise landing operation yet undertaken. 

Every process must take place without error and precisely on time, in order for the landing to succeed.

The descent is scheduled to take place today on the 18th February 2021 at 3:55 pm American Eastern Standard Time.

Perseverance will be the fifth rover to land on the red planet.  The spacecraft is on target to touch down in Jezero Crater.  It’s mission will be to scientifically discover whether there were ever any lifeforms on the surface of Mars.

“Jezero Crater is the most challenging Martian terrain ever targeted for a landing”.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters

It’s landing day for Perseverance and all eyes are on the Red Planet.

The rover spent the last seven months flying the roughly 125-million-mile (202 million kilometers) distance to Mars on a quest to find signs of ancient life. Later today (Feb. 18), the mission will begin a daring “seven minutes of terror“-type descent, and if all goes well, its wheel touchdown will signal the beginning of the most powerful rover yet to roam the Martian surface. 

Perseverance will broadcast information back in high-definition 4K, set aside promising rock samples for a sample-return mission and launch the first interplanetary helicopter — all the while photographing, laser-targeting and investigating targets in the ancient delta of Jezero Crater

The Australian Connection

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The Great Conjunction of Planets – Jupiter and Saturn – December 2020

The planet Saturn

The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn

Jupiter and Saturn have been travelling across the sky together this month but right now they are really putting on a show. You can see them in the western sky, very low, each evening for an hour after sunset. A conjunction will occur every 20 years this century but this one is called a “great conjunction”.

On 21st December 2020, the two planets were approximately 1/10 of a degree apart. They will not appear this close in the sky again until the year 2080.

The last time that these two planets were visible across the earth was on 5th March in the year 1226, when they were even closer compared to what we will see this year.

If you have binoculars or a small telescope you will be able to see both Jupiter and Saturn along with Jupiter’s moons.

If you would like to see the moons of Jupiter, train your telescope on Jupiter that night, and if there are no clouds, three of the four famous Galilean satellites will be visible. The moons of Jupiter that will be visible are Callisto, Io and Europa.

On one side of Jupiter, you’ll see its volcanic moon, Io (closest to Jupiter’s disk) and second-largest moon, Callisto.  On the other side of Jupiter will be Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon. As for Europa, it will be in transit, crossing in front of Jupiter, so cannot be seen.

This could be a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to see the Great Conjunction of the planets Saturn and Jupiter. The planets will be visible until the end of January 2021.

In this photo, taken with a cell phone in Australia, the two planets can be clearly seen


Read more about The Planets

NASA Science Live video



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

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.”

America’s National Aeronautical and Space Administration

NASA Building

With the establishment of NASA in 1958, eight main objectives were set for the new space agency.  According to NASA, these included, “the expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere and space,” along with, “the development and operation of vehicles capable of carrying instruments, equipment, supplies and living organisms through space.”

Also listed as a primary objective was, “the preservation of the role of the United States as a leader in aeronautical and space science and technology and in the application thereof to the conduct of peaceful activities within and outside the atmosphere.”

The ORIGINS of NASA

The Missions of NASA