Down to Earth
I’ve come across so many spectacular space videos and photos lately that I can’t help but keep sharing them!
(from NASA: 2Explore on Flickr)
This is one more image from the Soyuz 27S landing last Monday night. Earlier, I posted the video of the entry taken from the ISS, but astronaut Dan Burbank posted this pretty incredible still photo yesterday to his Twitter account. You can see the entering Soyuz vehicle as a bright streak in the center of the image, just below the end of the Progress vehicle still docked to ISS. The Black Sea is at the bottom of the image and sunrise is starting to peek over the horizon at the top. Wow.
This video from astronaut Ron Garan, who came home on Soyuz 26S in September, made the Internet rounds last week but I didn’t sit down to watch until last night. You can read more about how he did the time lapses on his Fragile Oasis site, but first I recommend you just sit back and watch the whole thing. The time lapse footage they are getting is just gorgeous, especially the nighttime passes (I love the city lights and the lightning flashes from thunderstorms) and the auroras.
On Saturday morning, the Mars Science Laboratory — a spacecraft carrying a rover the size of a Mini Cooper — launched from Florida. It should arrive at Mars next August. Planetary missions are always exciting. Some part of my brain feels like the stakes are higher since the destination is so far away, although that makes no logical sense, since there aren’t people onboard. This video shows the separation of the spacecraft from the upper stage rocket that provided the thrust to get out of Earth orbit. Super cool! That’s the final step of what I’ll call the launch and departure sequence. (I don’t know if there is an official name for it.)
As if live video of the spacecraft separation wasn’t enough, astronomers in Australia spotted MSL later that day as it began its journey to Mars. It looked almost like a comet — really strange! The plume is assumed to be particles from the burn that took the spacecraft out of Earth orbit and on its interplanetary trajectory.
When MSL gets to Mars next August, it will land using a new system called the Skycrane. It sounds, and LOOKS, pretty crazy — but there were several factors that drove the engineering team to design the system. The Scientific American blog has a really good overview of Mars entry, descent and landing (EDL) systems and how the Skycrane came to be, if you’re interested.