3 Big Space Stories from September 11-17, 2023

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NASA astronaut Frank Rubio inside the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Rubio’s Journey

On September 11, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio broke the record Longest single spaceflight by an American: 355 days. This will be his first trip to the International Space Station, and by the time he returns to Earth on September 27, he will have spent. 371 days In low earth orbit.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hey, the previous record holder. Talked to Rubio And what he thought was the „funniest” thing about his feat.

„[P]The funniest thing is that now I was in the space with 25 people, at that time Laurel [O’Hara] Her crew is coming here and it’s going to be 28, which is pretty awesome,” Rubio said. „To fly with that many people is pretty special.”

The number of NASA astronauts in space may actually grow in the not-too-distant future as the agency explores plans for new space stations and moves to establish a base on the Moon before attempting the first crewed mission to Mars.

A conceptual picture of a possible Heissian world, K2-18 b. Credit: NASA / CSA / ESA / J. Olmsted / STScI / N. Madhusudan / University of Cambridge

An exoplanet does not necessarily have Earth’s oxygen-rich atmosphere and rocky surfaces. Astronomers believe that „Heissian worlds„Hydrogen-rich atmospheres and liquid oceans covering their surface could support life as we know it.

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They haven’t actually found one of these hypothetical worlds yet, but New observations K2-18 b, an exoplanet about 120 light-years from Earth, was observed by the James Webb Space Telescope. can Fits the bill.

Astronomers already knew that the exoplanet was in its star’s habitable zone, meaning it could have liquid water on its surface. The new data suggest that its atmosphere contains carbon-bearing molecules, including methane, a hydrocarbon and dimethyl sulfide, molecules produced only by life on Earth.

Future web observations focused on confirming the presence of these molecules are already underway.

„Our ultimate goal is to identify habitable extraterrestrial life, which will transform our understanding of our place in the universe.” said Astronomer Nikku Madhusudhan. „Our findings are a promising step in this quest for a deeper understanding of Hyssian worlds.”

The Victus Nox mission is launched from the Vandenberg Space Force Station. Credit: Firefly Aerospace

Quick release of Firefly

One of the 12 most exciting space missions of 2023 launched this week – and it was a record-breaking success.

The U.S. military relies on a fleet of satellites for comms, nav, surveillance, and more, so if an adversary attacks one, it’s critical to replace it quickly.

To prepare for such a scenario, the U.S. Space Force hired Texas-based Firefly Aerospace for Victus Nox in 2022, a mission to test how quickly Firefly can get a satellite into orbit following the Space Force’s request.

The order came on September 13 27 hours Later, one of Firefly’s Alpha rockets lifted off, carrying a satellite built by Boeing subsidiary Millennium Space Systems. Previous counter-launch record for a US national security mission: 21 days.

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„Today was an incredible victory for the Space Force, the Firefly crew and our nation after this complex and responsive space mission.” said Bill Weber, CEO of Firefly Aerospace. „Our integrated business and government team executed the mission with record speed, agility and flexibility, adding a critical capability to address national security needs.”

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