NASA To Build Deep Space Habitat

Last year, NASA had a number of major successes, including finding liquid water on Mars and icy mountains on Pluto. These discoveries led Congress to give the organization a raise, approving a budget of $19.3 billion.

The budget for this year is actually $1.27 billion more than what the Obama administration had requested. However, it does come with some requirements. Congress is instructing NASA to use at least $55 million to construct a prototype model of a deep space habitat.

An omnibus bill passed by Congress this month directs NASA to accelerate work on a “habitation augmentation module” that could be used for future deep space missions.

The Exploration Research And Development line item in the budget received an allocation of $350 million. The funding for the habitation module will be a part of the Advanced Exploration Systems program, which is a part of the aforementioned line item.

It states that “NASA shall develop a prototype deep space habitation module within the advanced exploration systems program.” In addition, NASA will be required to provide Congress with a report within 180 days of the bill’s enactment that details how those funds are being used to create the habitation module.

Congress is looking for quick results; they want everything done by 2018. So how will NASA do this?

Well, NASA has spent much of the last year voicing a desire to get humans to Mars by the 2030s. A habitation module that sits between Earth and the moon could be used for the manned missions to Mars that NASA hopes to carry out.

Sam Scimemi, International Space Station director at NASA Headquarters, stated that he envisions testing out the habitation module and other key technologies in a year-long “shakedown cruise” in cislunar space by the late 2020s.

The agency has already funded several industry studies of habitation module concepts under its Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP program.

15 Interesting Facts About NASA

The acronym “NASA” stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The organization has pioneered many missions to space. They even managed to get humans on the moon with a computer as powerful as your modern toaster. To many, NASA seems to be an invincible force, and in many respects that are, but at the end of the day they are no different than any other organization. I recently came across this article, which outlines some interesting facts about NASA that you might not know. Here are some of many favorite facts about the NASA.

1) NASA has a goal to get humans on Mars at some point in the 2030s.

2) Space Shuttle electronics were so outdated that nobody made them anymore. Therefore, NASA had to resort to buying spare parts on websites like eBay.

3) According to NASA estimates, the value of minerals in the asteroid belt amounts to nearly $100 billion for every human on the planet.

4) To be officially considered an astronaut by NASA you must travel at least 50 miles above Earth’s surface.

5) Cape Canaveral, Florida was chosen as a launch site for spaceships because of its proximity to the equator. This location gives it more linear velocity than any other location in the United States.

6) According to polls, most Americans believe that NASA funding accounts for roughly 20% of the national budget. However, NASA actually receives only $0.005 cents of every dollar.

7) The area code for Kennedy Space Center, and its surrounding regions, is 321. The number imitates the countdown before liftoff.

8) The toaster in your kitchen has a more powerful computer than the one used by NASA to send astronauts to the moon. It only had 64Kbyte of memory and operated at 0.043MHz!

9) Lonnie Johnson, the man who invented the Super Soaker was a NASA scientist. Johnson also helped develop the Stealth Bomber.

10) NASA shows the movie Armageddon as part of its staff training. Trainees are then asked to identify as many scientific inaccuracies as they can.

11) NASA will send you a text message whenever the International Space Station passes over your location.

12) Feeling lazy? NASA will actually pay you to lay in bed for months at a time so they can study the effects of prolonged weightlessness.

13) Bill Nye the Science Guy originally wanted to be an astronaut, but NASA kept rejecting him.

14) In 2006, NASA admitted that they had accidentally recorded over the original tapes of the moon landing. Thankfully, NASA was not the only group recording. Copies found at CBS and Johnson Space Center are currently being restored.

15) NASA was sued by three men from Yemen for trespassing on Mars. The men claimed that they had inherited the planet from their ancestors thousands of years ago.

For more facts about NASA, feel free to check out this article or the video below.

Russia, Europe Team Up For Moon Landing

It has been over 46 years since the crew for the United States landed on the moon. The date was July 20th, 1969, when Apollo 11 brought the first humans to the Moon. Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first people to step foot onto the lunar surface. Since this historic day, we have not yet to see another human reach the Moon.

However, this may soon change, as Russia has announced plans to land its first cosmonauts on the Moon before 2030; Europe is also eager to take part in the mission as well.

On Tuesday, at a space and technology conference in Moscow, the head of Roscosmos Energia announced, “A manned flight to the moon and lunar landing is planned for 2029.”

Russia will be teaming up with the European Space Agency, which made history this past year when they landed the first spacecraft on a comet.

“We have an ambition to have European astronauts on the moon,” Bérengère Houdou, head of the lunar-exploration group at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Center, recently told BBC News. “There are currently discussion at international level going on for broad cooperation on how to go back to the moon.”

While they are several decades behind the United States in this area of space exploration, the mission is still exciting. Russian and Europe have expressed interest in establishing a permanent base on the moon; they have already begun taking steps to achieve this goal.

Roscosmos Energia previously announced last month that they will be sending a lander, Luna 25, to the moon’s south pole in 2014. Roscosmos is looking to investigate the lunar surface for future lunar bases.

The Luna 25 mission was actually initially proposed in 1997 but has suffered a number of delays. The help from Europe appears to be exactly what this mission needs to finally get off the ground. According to Tech Insider, construction on the spacecraft has already begun.

We have seen a reignited interest in deep-space travel, and a mission to the Moon will only help to fuel the interest in continued space exploration. This collaborative effort in space exploration is exciting to see as the world looks to take on even more dangerous missions, such as Mars.


Twin Jet Nebula

The universe is vast as it is beautiful. Every day the human race pushes further into that black unknown, we come closer to understanding more about the universe. Each discovery is new and powerful, transcending our wildest imaginings, and reminds us just how small we are. Recently, a discovery made by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed another event that had never been witnessed before by human eyes.

Named for its unique structure, the Twin Jet Nebula expands outward in two directions. Massive waves of iridescent light reach away from the suns rotating at its center. Scientists have compared its body to a butterfly, outstretched wings resplendent with beautiful colors created by jets of gas escaping the suns gravitational pull in excesses of 620,000 mph.

Scientifically identified by its less catchy name, PN M2-9 is the first discovery of its kind. The unique array of lights bringing the nebula to life is a result of its aged and dying suns. As a star ages, it sheds outer layers while its mass decreases, exposing the radioactive core to the emptiness of space. The immense pouring of light and heat into the vacuum illuminates the gasses escaping the core, resulting in a prismatic show of primordial beauty.

More fascinating than the shape of the nebula, is its swirling heart. Two brother suns, trapped in one another’s gravitational pull, rotate at the center of this nebula. Throwing an irradiated cloud of energy for thousands of miles in either direction, the nebula has captured the attention of the scientific community.

Two suns orbiting each other once every hundred years, exerting gravitational forces that fling energy out in beautiful wing patterns. An incredible phenomenon occurring on a level above the natural, this universal event is unique and fascinating. Reminding us, yet again, that we’re lucky to be on this planet.


10 Amazing Astronomy Facts

Humans have studied and explored our universe for thousands of years. We have learned a great deal about our planet and the universe as a whole from these studies, but there is still so much more to discover. That is what makes Astronomy such a fun and interesting field of study. It seems as though each week there is a new breakthrough, discovery, or change of belief related to space. What we have learned so far is certainly amazing as it is interesting, beautiful, and sometimes pretty strange. Here are 10 astronomy facts that show how astounding our universe truly is.

1) Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, can reach temperatures of -280 degrees fahrenheit. This is because the planet has almost no atmosphere, therefore, there is nothing to trap heat near the surface.

2) The Sun is 400 times larger than the moon but they look the same size because the moon is actually 500 times further away from earth than the sun.

3)  Looking into space is like looking back in time. This is because light from distant stars and galaxies take so long to reach us that we are actually seeing objects as they appeared hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years ago.

4) Every second the core of the Sun releases the equivalent amount of energy to 100 billion nuclear bombs.

5) Scientists believe that we can only see around 5% of the matter in the Universe. The rest is composed of invisible Dark Matter (25%) and a mysterious form energy called Dark Energy (70%).

6) All of the planets are the same age: 4.544 billion years.

7) Shooting stars are actually tiny dust particles falling through our atmosphere. Comets that pass through Earth’s orbit will leave trails of dust behind. WHen Earth moves through the dust in its path, the particles heat up, creating the streaks in the night sky.

8) Saturn would actually float if it were placed in water.

9) Mercury orbits the sun once every 88 Earth days. So 1 year on Mercury is equal to 88 Earth days. But a day on Mercury is longer than an Earth day. So 1 Mercury day lasts for 59 Earth Days.

10) Saturn’s moon Titan, has liquid oceans of natural gas.

If you are interested in learning so more interesting facts about our universe, check out these two articles: Space.About and 50 Amazing Facts.

Earth Found Its Cousin!

As you may have heard, a great discovery was made by astronomers about a week ago concerning a planet that has very, very similar characteristics to our very own Earth. Kepler-452b is the first planet to meet all three criteria related to earth – it contains a similar size, habitable-zone orbit, and sun-like star. Though the new planet’s radius is 1.6 times the size of ours, and it orbits its star every 385 days compared to our 365 days, Kepler is seemingly just like Earth.

But, unfortunately, figuring out Kepler-452b’s composition is a lot harder to do than determining its physical size. According to an article published by, “To even begin guessing about a planet’s composition, you have to start with its density, and for that you need its mass. There’s no way to measure mass directly from Kepler data, and the planet is too small and faint for ground-based follow-up,” (Young, Kepler Discovers Earth’s Closest Cousin Yet).

That being said, the team that discovered Kepler does know a lot about its solar system. Astronomers are studying the G-type solar sibling (Kepler’s Sun) that is 1.5 years older than our Sun based on stellar evolution models, and serving as a glimpse into our own solar system’s future. With the help of planetary geologists and atmospheric scientists, we can make an educated hypothesis about the mass and atmosphere of the planet, which is said to be rocky with five times Earth’s mass and twice Earth’s surface gravity. Scientists also predict that Kepler has both active volcanoes and significant cloud cover.

The discovery of Kepler-452b proves to be a huge change in the mission for NASA astronomists, with the help of new, state-of-the-art technological and software improvements. According to, “It’s the software improvements that enabled researchers to bag new candidates, and an 8th catalog with further improvements is planned for next year. With a fully automated pipeline, the Kepler team can now mimic the decisions that researchers were making manually. That means that all of the planet candidate detections can be re-evaluated using the full dataset, a feat not possible before,” (Young, Kepler Discovers Earth’s Closest Cousin Yet).

The news of Kepler-452b’s discovery is huge in the world of astronomy and marks a turning point for a new age of technology catered to space.