Inside Space - May 24th, 2018

Inside Space (May 24th, 2018)

GOES-17 / Curiosity / Pluto / Sally Ride


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There is a "serious" cooling problem with NOAA's GOES-17 weather satellite's imaging system that launched about two months ago. The issue could affect the device's ability to offer forecasts. A cooling problem exists in the satellite's Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). NOAA says the problem is affecting the instrument's infrared and near-infrared channels. NOAA, NASA and the ABI contractor are working to investigate and fix the issue. But, NOAA notes, "if efforts to restore the cooling system are unsuccessful, alternative concepts and modes will be considered to maximize the operational utility of the ABI." — CBS


Curiosity rover is again able to drill holes into the surface of Mars. NASA engineers created a workaround to the rover's ongoing electrical and mechanical issues by allowing the device to use its extended arm to drill freestyle. The rover's drill feed broke in December 2016. At the time, the rover was unable to drill up and down. NASA tested its workaround May 20 when Curiosity drilled a 2-inch-deep hole. The next step for engineers is to refine the rover's process for delivering dust samples to its internal lab. — GIZMODO


New research suggests Pluto might actually be a huge comet. Scientists using data from flybys of NASA's New Horizons and from the European Space Agency's Rosetta found that Pluto's Sputnik Planitia — a nitrogen-rich ice glacier on its surface — is similar to the composition of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta orbited the comet from 2014 through 2016. "Our research suggests that Pluto's initial chemical makeup, inherited from cometary building blocks, was chemically modified by liquid water, perhaps even in a subsurface ocean," researcher Chris Glein said. — CNET


The International Space Station will be visible through early June above much of the Western United States. While the path of ISS takes it over spots on Earth multiple times each day, the station only is visible in certain conditions. It must be dark where the observer is, and it must be sunny where the station is — 250 miles above Earth. “Normally you might be able to see it for one pass a night or maybe two. What’s really unusual here is that we’re having nights when we can see four or five passes in one night," said John McLaren, president of the Seattle Astronomical Society. — SEATTLE TIMES


A camera taking images of a SpaceX launch May 22 melted in a brush fire sparked by the launch. Veteran NASA photographer Bill Ingalls was taking images of the Falcon 9 launch that included NASA's twin GRACE-FO satellites. It also included five commercial Iridium Next communications satellites. Ingalls said his Canon DSLR — one of six cameras he had placed to chronicle the launch — was about 1,320 feet from the launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. His other five devices were not near the fire. Fire crews put out the fire quickly, Ingalls said. The camera did capture an image before melting. Ingalls, who has captured images of space launches since 1989, said this was the first time a camera of his melted. — SPACE


The United States Postal Service is commemorating Sally Ride — the first woman, first known LGBT astronaut and youngest American in space — with a stamp.

The stamp was released May 23. At the age of 32, Ride joined the space shuttle Challenger crew. The stamp recognition comes six years after her death. She died at 61 — less than two years after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Ride learned about a job position in NASA's space program through an ad in her college newspaper. She often told college students who sought advice to “read your student newspaper.”


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