Twittering from outer space

Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield, has been tweeting about his experience living and working on the International Space Station, which orbits the Earth 16 times per day.  He flew to space on December 19th and will be returning to Earth in May.  To follow Chris Hadfield in space, visit:

For information about his mission, read the Canadian Space Agency Mission Blog

Photograph of Europe’s Alps from Chis Hadfield, which was taken on New Year’s Eve from the International Space Station

NASA news: Mercury water ice

NASA held a news conference today, unveiling new evidence for water ice at Mercury’s polar regions from the MESSENGER spacecraft.

MESSENGER is an acronym for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging. Powered by two solar panels, it was launched August 3, 2004, reaching Mercury’s orbit March 18, 2011 (UTC).

Mercury has a temperature range of 610 degrees Celsius: 427 degrees on the side closest to the Sun, and -183 degrees on the night side. There are crater floors around Mercury’s poles that are in persistent shade, since its rotation axis does not tilt. NASA’s latest data points to water ice and other frozen deposits in these craters.

The red areas in this image are the permanently shadowed craters of Mercury’s north pole, with the polar deposits in yellow.

Curiosity lands on Mars

Curiosity (XKCD comic for August 6, 2012), successfully landed their Curiosity rover on Mars last night/early this morning (depending on your earthly location) and Curiosity is already sending back pictures. I am now following Curiosity on Twitter!

You can find out more about the mission from NASA and JPL.

Previously: Curiosity Rover to discover whether Mars was once habitable

Image: XKCD comic Curiosity (August 6, 2012) by Randall Munroe

Curiosity Rover to discover whether Mars was once habitable

NASA’s new mobile Mars Science Laboratory, also known as the Curiosity Rover, will be launched on August 5th to study the rocks, soil, and atmosphere on Mars’ Gale Crater for signs of historical and current habitable environments.  A habitable environment contains water, energy, and carbon to support life.  Past missions have discovered the limited presence of water and energy on Mars, but none, so far, have found carbon in a form that can sustain life.

Curiosity’s purpose is to determine how to conduct a search for carbon, as well as find carbon.  The former will assist planetary scientists in further research, since they are uncertain about how to probe rock strata for biosignatures, whether on Earth or on Mars.

This month’s issue of Scientific American provides an overview of Curiosity’s mission and a step-by-step description of its landing sequence.

Image from Christopher Lotito