NASA, Europe Explore Joint Mission to Outer Planets. Currently, the Cassini spacecraft continues to examine the Saturnian system. NASA and the European Space Agency are considering a probe to either Jupiter or Saturn. The Jupiter mission would also send a secondary probe to Europa. The Saturn mission would send a secondary probe to Titan. Both Europa and Titan are interesting targets in the quest to understand solar system formation dynamics as well as potential sites where life might exist. Russia has expressed interest in joining the Jupiter mission.
Space Station Commander Sets New U.S. Record. Peggy Whitson has set the U.S. record for most cumulative time spent in orbit: 377 days over two spaceflights. She landed back on Earth this past Saturday. She also holds the world record for most spacewalking time by a female astronaut. The 377 days in orbit places her 20th on the world-wide list of most experienced spaceflyers. The all-time leader? Sergei Krikalev has spent over 803 days in space!
Spaceship Prototype Flown in New Mexico. A new type of automated and reusable spaceship is a step closer to being able to transport payloads into space in the near future. Lockheed Martin, the designer and operator, recently inked a Memo of Understanding with the New Mexico Spaceport Authority to carry out future testing at the spaceport. It is high time for private companies to develop and deploy space payload delivery systems.
Earth to Mars Missions Continue Development. Just over one month from now (May 25th), the Phoenix Lander will land at the north pole of Mars. The next probe being readied for launch is NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory. It should arrive in 2010. The European Space Agency is getting in on the act with their ExoMars mission scheduled for touchdown in 2014. When Spirit and Opportunity landed at Mars, I went to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. They had set up live feeds from NASA as the landings occurred. In an incredible display of support for science, the two original rooms were filled beyond capacity hours before the official landing even occurred. Museum officials were scrambling to set up people in other rooms across the museum with additional TVs and such. I can’t wait to see the crowds for Phoenix!