Honey, I’m going to Space. Text me.

Last month, NASA reported a record number of astronaut applications in the application window ending Feb. 18, 2016. 18,300 people applied, shattering the previous record of 8,000 applicants from 1978. As the looming thought that Donald Trump could actually win an election grows stronger, it seems that people are looking past Canada and seriously considering getting the {fuck} off of Earth. I don’t blame them. Political correlations aside, further observation of contemporary culture brings me to the conclusion that space is trendy right now.

Space has been entering the scene of current pop culture in movies like Interstellar, the Martian and of course, the long awaited 7th installment of Star Wars. Sounds from the esoteric are growing in popularity from the increased use of synthesizers and deep house sounds in modern music, which are really just terrestrial signals of intelligent life for the rest of the Universe to pick up on. Space themes are present in fashion from high-end pieces to nebula plastered hoodies and t-shirts I see floating around on Twitter and the ‘gram. Last summer, you probably saw the total lunar eclipse of a super full moon or blood moon over North America, a sight we wont see for another 18 years.

Please, enjoy a piece that will catch you up on what we’ve been doing since we landed on the moon in 1969.

Hostel culture reaches space

Free for guests — not for taxpayers.

A shuttle docks at the ISS

If you’re familiar with hostels, you know its the kind of place that travelers from all corners of the world show up to for a little R&R on whatever voyage they’re on. Space is not without it’s own version, housing astronauts from all parts of the world to stay at the luxurious ISS — International Space Station. In the same hostel fashion, astronauts are living and eating on top of each other, with only the supplies and clothes that they brought with them, logging everything that happens, and taking extra care not to disrupt the mission of each of the space travelers around them. Just like a real hostel, your neighbor is akin to family.

In an incredible display of technological savvy, NASA along with 4 other Earth space agencies began physically putting together the ISS in space in 1998. Such an endeavor is not without its costs, easily becoming the most expensive object ever built— totaling almost $160 billion in 2010. It is undoubtedly worth more now in 2016 as additions & maintenance costs build up.

Quick facts about the ISS:

  • The ISS measures just one yard larger than an American football field — 361 feet
  • It’s a central place for research where we can eliminate the variable of gravity in experiments
  • There are 6 astronauts living on the ISS currently. Astronauts are required at least 2 hours of exercise a day #sofitU
  • It weighs 925,000 pounds (not in space, of course ;)
  • Orbits 240 miles above the Earth
  • Travels at 17,500 miles per hour (over 10 x the speed of a bullet)

At that speed, you can be sure that the ISS will at some point fly over your neighborhood, which is why NASA offers Spot The Station — a site that will tell you exactly when the ISS will be in your view.

If you’re lucky enough to be following astronaut Scott Kelly, you’ll have seen some incredible photography identified by the hashtag #YearInSpace. If not, I recommend you enrich your life with some out-of-this-world beauty. In the spotlight the past two months: Kelly’s space flowers. Kelly just finished a 340 day mission on the ISS — Welcome home, brother.

I suppose it’s important to note that the ISS is is a space laboratory and not just a hip, drop-in style bed & breakfast (no open Airbnb listings either — I checked). Its primary function is to serve as a space laboratory, advancing research on medicine, industrial materials, communications technology and more.

“Am I big enough now?”


Enhanced color view of differing terrains from a global view of Pluto taken at 280,000 miles away.

The U.S. is the first nation to reach every [known] planet in the solar system with a space probe. Now, we’ve gotten to ex-planet Pluto with New Horizons. New Horizons is an awesome space probe that sent back killer images of Pluto from a flyby last summer. It’s the first spacecraft to explore the [dwarf] planet, getting closest on July 17, 2015. At that time Pluto’s south pole region hadn’t been sunlit in 20 years and wont for another 80, but revealed incredible images. Despite it’s beauty, there’s not much space tourism appeal there yet.

New Horizons launched from Cape Canaveral as the fastest spacecraft ever launched and has now been traveling over 10 years & three billion miles at 32,000 mph. It launched in 2006 as part of a program called New Frontiers that’s also exploring Jupiter and will collect the first asteroid samples to be brought back to Earth.

What Happened to our 9th Planet?

Pluto was demoted from planet to dwarf planet in 2006 by the IAU. The charge was led by Mike Brown, who is conveniently involved in the search for the new 9th planet speculated to have a mass 5–10 times that of Earth and is potentially lurking in the outer depths of our precious solar system. I suspect this is just a late make-up call from carrying the continued weight of destroying countless childhoods across the globe.

The big dick in science — The National Academy of Sciences — has ranked the exploration of the Kuiper Belt [incl. Pluto] of the highest priority for solar system exploration. As a result, New Horizons is going farther into the icy abyss in the name of science, to explore more of the Kuiper Belt — the relic and edge of our known solar system, filled with icy floating rocks like Pluto. Maybe, we’ll lay eyes on the mysterious new 9th planet and have another immortal figure to shatter for the next generation.

A rendered view of Charon rising over the frozen south pole surface of Pluto

We’re constantly learning more about Pluto, it’s moons, and our solar system. We can see frozen canyons at Pluto’s north pole, remains of an ancient ocean on Pluto’s biggest moon , Charon — the biggest satellite object relative to its planet in our solar system, along with mountains, canyons, landslides and color variations that scientists did not expect on a moon so far out in our solar system. You can keep up with Pluto here.

We can see into the past

— no crystal ball needed, just a giant space telescope

This image, named Hubble Ultra Deep Field, depicts the universe as it was over 12 billion years ago.


Chances are you’ve heard of the Hubble Telescope. At the very least, you’ve seen an image like the one here. The first image of this type was the result of an experiment. On a whim, Hubble was pointed to a patch of darkness to capture as much light as it could for ten days — think of a camera that’s exposed for a whole night capturing the light it sees — whereas, the average exposure time for a Hubble image was just a few hours. The image that resulted was an unimaginably magnificent look into the past — a true treasure in astrologic observation.

Hubble depicts our Universe as it was billions of years ago. The picture here is estimated to show the Universe at an age of less than 1 billion years old. Remarkably, with Hubble, scientists have been able to make the most accurate estimation of the age of the universe — 13.7 billion years old. Without getting technical, they can deduce that by studying Cepheid variable stars {ce-what?}. These stars give an indication of their age based on a cycle of pulses they emit.

No telescope before Hubble had the resolution to capture the images Hubble can. Hubble celebrated its 25th birthday last year and we now know who the successor will be. The James Webb Space Telescope — a godly piece of machinery dressed in gold that will be observing the universe in infrared, allowing it to see even farther back in time than the Hubble. It will be launching in 2018.

Since Hubble is deserving of more than just a few lines on a blog post, I’ll stop here and invite you to keep learning about the wonders of Hubble on your own.

Breaking news as of Mar. 3, 2016: Hubble has identified the farthest galaxy EVER identified, GN-z11, measured to be just over 400 million years old from the Big Bang. Cool, huh?

Space Capitalism

Because why deprive the universe of capitalism?

Over 170 manned space missions have been launched by the US. Today however, the Space Shuttle Program is retired. The STS, Space Transportation System, you see depicted in this short gif is no longer in use, at least not as we know it. Parts of the STS will be used in the upcoming launch system that will be propelling humans farther than we’ve gone before and bring down the overall cost of those endeavors. The shuttle we’ve grown accustomed to seeing is replaced by a next-generation space craft & the big rockets attached to the shuttle are getting an upgrade as well. I examine both of those here.

Near the beginning of each year we remember our two fallen ships, Challenger, and Columbia, along with the Apollo-1 rocket, and their respective crews on the annual Day of Remembrance, Jan. 28. RIP fellow space travelers.

NASA’s moving on from the Space Shuttle.

Like any high growth business, NASA is outsourcing. Specifically, low orbit missions to and from the ISS we’ll be conducted by private companies as a part of the Commercial Crew Transportation program. Before you have any judgement, consider this as a good move. As basic free market principles go, this move allows for a focus of NASA’s resources (primarily time) and spurs innovation from companies competing for very expensive contracts — contracts they need for survival, because building rockets fit for space is in no way cheap. There are 8 companies that are a part of the Commercial Crew program, some names which might sound familiar like SpaceX & Boeing, along with some names that might not be like ATK and United launch Alliance.

Blue Origin gets its rocket to land upright, a major step towards efficiency in space travel.

Some key take-aways from the Commercial Crew program:

Commercial Crew is cost-effective. Right now, it cost about $81 million per seat in the Russian Soyuz, the spacecraft that just brought home astronaut Scott Kelly. In comparison, CC crafts will cost $58 million a seat.

More time for science! NASA requires the new spacecrafts to accommodate 4 crew members increasing the total number of astronauts on the ISS by 1, from 6 to 7.

Commercial Crew provides an economic boost across 35 states in over 350 companies as people strive toward the common goal of creating new space transportation efficiencies. Competition ensures the best product gets chosen.

Next year, we’ll gear up to bring astronauts into space on a US aircraft for the first time in almost 7 years. Points for American imperialism.

& Finally, M-A-R-S

Give the people what they want

Curiosity Rover that landed on Mars in 2012

Last year, NASA celebrated 50 years of Mars exploration that began in 1965. There have been 15 robotic missions to Mars, helping lay the groundwork for the future manned exploration of the Red Planet. The fictional character of Mark Watney in the Martian opened up the imaginations of countless people of what Mars will be like and the idea that humans will one day soon reach the red planet. It’ll be a tough journey to get there, which is why NASA is working diligently to creating the suitable conditions for deep space travel with research from ISS and total sophistication in the making of the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System. We’re expected to reach Mars sometime in the 2030s according to current NASA director Charlie Bolden, a point he reiterated in this year’s State of NASA address (read about it here).

Those dark streaks you see are recurring slope linea formed from flowing water. Read the full description of this image here.

The biggest Mars news yet was the discovery of water on Mars from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The observations from the MRO corroborated the theories of flowing water on Mars that happens when things are “warmer” than usual, coinciding with seasonal variations and appearing in places where the temperature is above -10° F. The dark streaks on the slopes are most likely made form sub-surface movement of water — scientists hypothesize.

There are certainly more things to catch up on as it relates to our Space exploration and domestic space agency moves. This information, however, should bring you up to a cruising speed.

If you liked this or found it informative, please hit the green ❤ below.


Nasa.gov | Nasa.gov | Nasa.gov | Nasa.gov | Nasa.gov | Nasa.gov | Nasa.gov | Mars.Nasa.gov | HubbleSite | Zidbits.com

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