Tag Archives: NASA

James Webb Space Telescope launches on Christmas Day

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James Webb Space Telescope is often dubbed the long awaited ‘successor’ to famous Hubble Telescope. With its recent start on 25th of December 2021 let’s delve into the details of the telescope’s mission and elaborate on some differences between ‘Webb’ and ‘Hubble’.

Webb’s Origin and Development

The idea for a Next Generation Space Telescope was born in the 1990’s. It was planned to observe the Universe in the infra-red spectrum, which would allow to see space objects much farther or colder than Hubble could see. It was initially intended to launch in 2007, but in 2000’s it was still in early development. The first deadline was deemed impossible to meet, so the whole project was re-planned with the seven-fold expansion of the initial budget, and the launch was put-off to somewhere in the following decade. Eventually, the project’s budget exceeded $9 Billion, with European and Canadian Space Agencies contributing hundreds of millions of dollars, as well. Due to both, technical issues and factors independent of the space agencies, like the most recent Covid-19 Pandemic, the start of the mission of the Webb Telescope was scheduled for 2021. The Telescope was eventually launched from Europe’s Space Port in French Guiana on 25th December 2021.

Differences between other space telescopes

Hubble Space Telescope (left) compared to Webb (right)

One of the most significant differences between Webb and Hubble is the location of the mission. While Hubble is operating from Low-Earth Orbit, Webb will observe its targets from so-called ‘Earth – Sun Second Lagrange point’ (L2) which effectively means that it is few times further away from Earth than the Moon. Other very important difference is the wavelengths which telescopes utilizes. Hubble can see light varying in wavelength from ultraviolet to close infrared, while Webb can see much farther into infrared, which will be its main frequency of operation, just like Spitzer Space Telescope. Webb has also main mirror more than two times larger than Hubble’s with a diameter of 6.5 meters.

The difference between different wavelenghts (by Hubble Space Telescope)

The mission

Currently the Telescope is travelling to L2, where it will make its research. After its arrival to the orbit in late January 2022, the 6 months long preparation phase will follow. When Webb is finally calibrated, it may start its observations which are meant to last at least 5 years, but the Telescope may operate for as much as 10 years. From there it will look down in infrared on countless Nebulae, Star Clusters and Systems, providing new, clearer look on already known objects. One of the first Webb’s objectives is going to be evaluating on systems with potential exoplanets discovered by Kepler Space Telescope. Another goal may be searching for stars much older than we could previously see. Due to the redshift effect, the further away the object is, the more shifted to red it will be perceived by us. JWST is able to search for much older objects than Hubble, which tend to release more radiation in the infrared frequencies, due to its greater presence in infra-red spectrum.

Libration Points in Sun – Earth system. JWST will orbit around Second Libration Point


Webb’s Mission has just started, but its success is much anticipated. Its observations will verify countless theories regarding different space objects and provide many additional data which may be useful in the future. Even though, minor malfunctions may be handled by the Telescope itself, any major failure may lead to the end of the mission, because it is too far away to be repaired by a rescue team of Astronauts. Only Time will tell us what we will gain from James Webb Space Telescope…


James Webb Space Telescope – Wikipedia

Orbit – Webb/NASA

ESA – Europe’s Spaceport

Lagrange point – Wikipedia

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James Webb Telescope Launched On Christmas, Here Are Five Things You Need To Know As It Head To Space | Investor’s Business Daily (investors.com)

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Are we in a state of a Second Space Race? (opinion)

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With the development of rocket technology in the 40’s and 50’s it was obvious that humanity would soon try to reach to the Space. However due to the period of tensions between Democratic World (led by USA) and Socialist Block (led by USSR), we now refer to as the Cold War, both Superpowers instead of collaborating for the good of humanity on that matter started to compete. Eventually the US and Soviet Union would scramble for which country would first launch a satellite to orbit the Earth, whose astronauts would land on the Moon first etc. Eventually, due to USSR’s collapse in 1991 the Cold War came to an end, and with it the First Space Race as well.

The 90’s and the beginning of the XXI Century saw Space Agencies from many countries doing joint research on Mir and on International Space Station. Since the end of the Apollo program in 1972 no-one has set foot on the Moon, but unmanned spaceships and rovers are still exploring our Natural Satellite and other worlds, like Mars, as well.

However in the past decade mutual relations between the Powers started to deteriorate. Tension is steadily growing, as 2014’s Russian annexation of Crimea Penninsula was considered unlawful by the ‘Western World’, which imposed sanctions on Russian Federation. Furthermore, for the last few years America is de facto in the state of Trade War with China and implemented bans on Chinese high-tech companies.  

The competition between the Powers seems to be more and more visible. The examples of that are most recent rovers on Mars: NASA’s Perserverance and CNSA’s Tianmen 1 which both launched in July of 2020. American landing on the Moon as a part of Artemis Program is scheduled for 2024 (which is unrealistic, as it was scheduled before COVID), and the works on apprioprate rocket and drive continue, while China is also planning to launch a manned space mission to the Moon in 2030’s. Taking some of the difficulties into account, like emergence of a global epidemic and constant funds shortages, it becomes obvious that by 2024 NASA won’t have sent its astronauts to the Moon. Moreover, some of the equipment needed for the project is still being developed and tested. This means, that there’s a chance of China being the first country to send astronauts to the Moon since Apollo program.

As International Space Station – home to astronauts from NASA, ESA, Roscosmos and others is steadily approaching the end of its mission, a question arises on the horizon: what Station will eventually replace it, and which Space Agency will be first to do so. The Country which first finishes building it most probably will make it available for others on their terms. For example, if PRC along with Russia manages to do it, then there’s a huge chance that during negotation of the terms on which American or European astronauts would gain access to the station tensions between those countries will rise even more.

On the other side there are commercial organizations like SpaceX or Blue Origin also looking to reinforce their presence in Space. 10 years ago those companies hardly had such level of importance and recognition as today. Recently those two were battling for a contract for a Lunar lander intended for the Artemis program. When Nasa after changing the details of contract choose SpaceX’s project, Blue Origin’s founder Jeff Bezos filed a lawsuit against the agency. Blue Origin eventually lost the case earlier this month.

To conclude, Global Superpowers – USA and China continue to compete against each other on many fields: technological, economic, diplomatic, with Space exploration being another proof of their rivalry. However, both countries’ leadership draw conclusions from the Cold War and understand, that they can’t allow mutual relations to deteriorate to the point of armed conflict. Recently, U.S. President Joe Biden held a virtual meeting with China’s Xi Jinping, during which they stated, that despite differences both countries want to avoid open conflict between each other. “”As I’ve said before, it seems to me our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States is to ensure the competition between our two countries does not veer into conflict, either intended or unintended. Just simply straightforward competition,” – said American President to his Chinese counterpart during the summit. Even during the Cold War both USA and USSR agreed on demilitarising the Space and halting nuclear tests there. The competition between both Superpowers or between private companies sometimes is a sign of rivalry or bad relations, however in this case it may also be considered a driving force, which speeds up development in the area. When Chinese Tianwen 1 succesfully landed on the Red Planet, NASA Administrator congratulated on success: “Congratulations to CNSA’s #Tianwen1 team for the successful landing of China’s first Mars exploration rover, #Zhurong! Together with the global science community, I look forward to the important contributions this mission will make to humanity’s understanding of the Red Planet.” All of this means that, even though we can consider this Competition the Second Space Race, it does not mean that Humanity will experience a military conflict outside the Earth any soon. Even term Star Wars, derived from popculture was just a catchphrase for American anti-ballistic defense system, which in reality didn’t saw any use. We are not having real Star Wars on Earths’ Orbit in near future.














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Is it still worth spending money on NASA?

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After Space Race ended, some wondered is it still worth spending money on NASA, how it is benefiting humanity, and if we should invest in space projects at all, if we have still so many problems back on earth.

But first let’s clear how much exactly NASA gets to complete their objectives. Many people believe it is about 20% of US whole budget, however in reality, in 2022 NASA’s proposed funding is $24.8 billion, which, even though it is more than in previous years, it is still less than 1% of US budget. But even with that, NASA still manages to do things, that would’ve been impossible if we stayed on earth.

Coming back on my previous point about spending money on space, while there are still many problems on earth; space programs can help people back on Earth. Good example is SMAP satelite which, while in space, scans the soil on the whole planet every 2 or 3 days, even through clouds, and sends information, which can be used to predict floods, droughts and other natural disasters harmful to crops. That is expecialy crucial for countries with high poverty level and unstable weather conditions like most of Africa. NASA has a data access policy of making all of the information and knowledge they gather free for anybody. That’s why it cannot be done by private companies with space projects like Spacex. Because companies need to get the money they spent back.

SMAP in space

Second thing worth mentioning is a possible extinction threat, like a meteor or other massive object striking the planet. The possibility is extreamly low, however the consequences are enough to make it a necessity to prepare countermeasures. The early meteorite alarm has been set in place, and there are plans to test if hitting a meteor in space with a ship could change it’s trajectory.

Considering that, I think it is still worth spending money on NASA and space projects. Going back on example with SMAP, while of course we could instead help by giving food for these in need, however it makes way more sense to choose a permanent solution, by giving them information about possible dangers to crops, which is their primary food source, and let these people help themselves instead of just helping them once, while spending roughly the same amount of funding.






First Flight on Mars

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The first image from Ingenuity’s historic flight on Mars, showing the helicopter’s shadow.
 Source: NASA / JPL

Today, on April 19th NASA has achieved a historic feat. They have performed the first flight off the Mars’ surface. In fact it was the first powered and controlled planet flight on another planet ever. It was performed by NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, and lasted 39 seconds. The helicopter doesn’t have any scientific instruments onboard. Its sole purpose was to demonstrate whether such thing was possible on the Red Planet. It was challenging, because although Mars has lower gravity – 1/3rd of that on Earth, it also has much thinner atmosphere – roughly 1% pressure of that near Earth’s surface. To be able to lift off the Mars’ surface it had to spin its blades at over 2500 rpm, when typically helicopters on Earth spin their blades at 500 rpm. During the test flight it reached the altitude of 10 feet and was observed and recorded by Perseverance rover, which it was brought with, 173 million miles from the Earths surface. They landed on the Mars’ surface on February 18th and the Ingenuity helicopter was detached from the Perseverance rover on April 3rd. The initial date of the test flight was April 11th but it was delayed after the engineers encountered a glitch while performing pre-flight tests, and they needed to reupload the entire flight software.

GIF of the first flight of the Ingenuity helicopter. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The place where the flight took place was named the Wright Brothers Field. NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen explained: “Now, 117 years after the Wright brothers succeeded in making the first flight on our planet, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has succeeded in performing this amazing feat on another world, […] While these two iconic moments in aviation history may be separated by time and 173 million miles of space, they now will forever be linked. As an homage to the two innovative bicycle makers from Dayton, this first of many airfields on other worlds will now be known as Wright Brothers Field, in recognition of the ingenuity and innovation that continue to propel exploration.”




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How to build a house on Mars

Reading Time: 3 minutesNeedless to say that modern technologies keep developing so fast and rapidly that colonization of Mars is around the corner. The main trailblazer in discovering this mysterious planet is Elon Musk with his SpaceX, he claims that humans will travel there in 10 years. SpaceX is already developing a spaceship named Starship and training future astronauts, but it hasn’t been decided yet where and how first Mars discoverers are going to live. It’s an extremely significant decision to make because astronauts will have to stay on Mars for quite a long time to finally figure one of humanity’s main mysteries. In this article, I would like to present a vision of possible accommodation on Mars.

Unlike the Earth, the red planet has no bricks and the materials used have to be durable. In 2018 NASA conducted a contest where participants had to present their prototypes of a house that can be built on Mars. There were many wonderful and unconventional projects, but the most capturing among others tends to be the Marsha prototype. The house shape reminds of a cylinder and was developed considering Mars’s features. But the main question is what materials to use in the construction of it? As I have mentioned, it’s unable to produce ordinary materials like bricks on Mars. Possible you thought that materials carried on the spaceship are the solution, but I’d say it’s almost impossible. The way to Mars is not days or months, it’s years long. That is why food and other life resources are more preferable. Although it could be some space left for constructing materials, it’s far less than required. That is why scientists started to look for natural materials of the red planet to produce durable material for accommodation.

They concluded that it’s easier as it may seem. 

What materials can be used to build houses on Mars was discussed in the scientific journal Public Library of Science One. The surface of Mars is covered with soil weathered over millions of years, so-called regolith. To create at least some semblance of bricks out of it, water is needed, and scientists haven’t yet been able to find its obvious sources. Besides, now people can form materials suitable for building houses only under terrestrial conditions. And on Mars, it is necessary to come up with a way to create artificial stones and their analogs.

Recently, an interesting solution to this problem was proposed by scientists from Singapore. They suggested that the regolith could be made more flexible by mixing it with chitosan. This is the name of the substance that can be obtained from the material, which is the main component of the shells of shrimp, crabs, and some insects. The final material was named biolite. From it, scientists tried to create a smaller version of the Marsha house that I’ve mentioned before, but it was not created from scratch. Three components were 3D printed and then glued together using biolite. It turned out quite well, so we can assume that the houses of the future colonists of Mars will look like this.

Back in 2018, NASA researchers realized that some structures could be built from mushrooms. First, people build a primitive frame and then grow a special type of mushrooms under it, which wraps around the structure and takes its shape. When the structure takes its final form, the mushrooms can be heat treated and made clean and dry. In the picture, you can see that things made of mushrooms look disgusting and scary. Scientists want to make “mushroom houses” out of 3 layers. The first is mushrooms, the second is out of bacteria and the last one is ice. But they didn’t mention where to take so much water on Mars and how to prevent ice from melting.


As you can see, humanity is preparing to move to Mars. But before that, the planet must be carefully studied. In my opinion, every effort is valuable and I would never criticize a single try to invent or discover something new, especially connected to space because that moves the progress.





NASA-awarded ‘marsha’, a 3D-printed vertical martian habitat by AI spaceFactory

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Crew Dragon’s last straight

Reading Time: 2 minutesNasa conducted a test of the Crew Dragon crew capsule, made in collaboration with SpaceX and Boeing. The agency wanted to check key emergency procedures for crew safety. It was spectacular.
The emergency in-flight abort system has just been successfully demonstrated.
On January 19th a thrice-flown Falcon 9 sent an uncrewed Crew Dragon 12 miles into the sky and after about 84 seconds after launch, the rocket shut off its engines, and the vehicle’s own SuperDraco engines turned on, separating Crew Dragon from Falcon 9 at Mach 2.2 and getting a mile away in a matter of seconds.
It was a key test of safety procedures for the Crew Dragon capsule. It is a project whose point is to re-supply people to space regularly. This is the first action of that kind that can be repeated since the suspension of space shuttle missions.

The test that has been made on 19th January at the afternoon of polish time and has gone as planned. Its purpose was to simulate irregularities during take-off. The mission’s task was to perform a controlled disconnection of the Crew Dragon capsule from the Falcon 9 rocket, which carried the capsule into space.
Disconnection took place about a minute and a half after take-off. Fifteen seconds later, due to strong vibrations, the Falcon 9 rocket exploded spectacularly. However, the mission command center provided for this possibility. It was even said that there is a small chance that the rocket would survive the test.

However, it survived the most important part of the mission, the capsule disconnected from the rocket without problems and began a short flight on the engines built into it. Less than 6 minutes after take-off, four new-generation parachutes emerged from the vehicle, which were designed to slow down the capsule flight and make its launch not particularly uncomfortable for the potential crew. After 9 minutes, Crew Dragon fell into the ocean about 30 km from the start. Rescue teams started their work, whose task was to train the procedures of getting the crew out of the capsule.




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Our biggest enemy in space conquest is… humanity itself

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I bet that 90% of people reading this article wished to become astronaut back in their childhood. To be honest, that was my wish too! Sadly, this article won’t be about bright future of space conquest, but rather grim reality of work in space sector.

Since beginning of space race, humanity has launched around 8100 satellites of which some 5000 remains in orbit. As you can imagine, Earth’s orbit has plenty of space and 5000 satellites should be as “big” concern as 5000 cars for a small town, so basically none. But… there are several circumstances that makes it a little bit more complex! Every artificial satellite needs to be delivered to space, which demands a big rocket that can get it into our orbit, then some parts must detach, and so on. Every step in orbit will leave new parts, and these parts will fly at speed of several thousand kilometers per second, and guess what. If you would get hit by screw at speed that high, it would be like you were hit by bolt of plasma, and same goes for every object in space.

As you may see in the picture above, this is what happens when spacecraft is hit by small debris. You might think that “come on there can’t be enough debris made by launching some satellites” and to be honest you are kind of right. Problem is that more than 95% of current object in orbit are so called zombies, serving no purpose, floating in space, waiting for impact with other body. When this happens, hundreds of small pieces burst into all directions, posing enormous threat to everything else. Sometimes government come up with “brilliant” ideas, for example Chinese government decided to test if their rockets can shoot down their own satellites – Turns out they can, however test also created enormous amount of space garbage. We could go on and on to see new examples, but let’s get to the point.

Everyday U.S. Military issues 21 warnings about space collisions. That is US alone, we can only guess that everyday there is more than one hundred warnings about space collision, so during whole year, there is at least more than 36 thousand warnings! This shows exactly how dangerous it becomes to travel into our orbit. Some specialist claims that every year we are getting closer to point of no retreat, and that means that Earth will become our jail, because we won’t be able to get safely into space.

But how can we fight with this threat you may ask? That is what you will find out in my next article!





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