Space News: April 2022

We’re back again and it’s April this time! What kind of cool and crazy new things have happened this month in the name of science and space exploration? Let’s find out!

By Allison.

#1 Lyrid Meteor Shower: The First Nighttime Display Since January

Space enthusiasts and avid skywatchers finally got to witness the first meteor shower since January of this year.

While the occasional “shooting star” will fly through the night sky, there are also “meteor displays”, which describe an event with numerous shooting stars, aka a meteor shower.

There are only 10 recognized types of meteor displays, and the last one to take place was on January 3, 2022, called the Quadrantid meteor shower.

This month, we finally got to witness the Lyrid meteor shower, after nearly 15 weeks of a quiet sky overhead.

What Is The Lyrid Meteor Shower?

The Lyrid meteor shower is something that has been recognized in our night skies for over a millenia.

There are even records from ancient Chinese texts dating back to 687 BC (talk about a long time ago!), where they describe the great and fascinating meteor shower.

The radiant of these meteors are near the constellation of Lyra, about 6 degrees southwest of the brilliant blue star, Vega, and the peak Lyrid meteor shower took place on April 22.

If you’d like to know more about the Lyrid meteor shower, you can check out the full article here: https://skyandtelescope.org/astronomy-news/observing-news/celebrate-spring-with-the-lyrids/

#2 NASA Welcomes Their First Black Woman, Jessica Watkins, On Board The International Space Station (ISS)

History was made this month as NASA welcomed its first black woman onto the crew of the International Space Station.

Watkins is being sent to the ISS to work with SpaceX’s Crew 4 mission, alongside several of the US and Europe’s esteemed astronauts like Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines and Samantha Cristoforetti.

Watkins and the crew will spend close to 6 months on board the International Space Station.

She will make history as the first black woman to work on the ISS, and her mission doesn’t stop there!

Jessica also strives to become the first black woman to fly and land on the moon as well!

That doesn’t mean that Watkins is the first black woman to make history, as she is the fifth to fly into space.

She follows other African-American female astronauts Mae Jemison, Stephanie Wilson, Joan Higgenbotham and Sian Proctor, but she remains the first black woman on the ISS.

Want to read more about Jessica’s historical journey? You can check out the full article here: https://www.college.ucla.edu/2022/04/20/jessica-watkins-international-space-station/

#3 Making Science Fiction Science Fact With Futuristic Space Concepts

We’ve all watched movies where astronauts are wearing futuristic suits and using gear that just doesn’t seem real (probably because it isn’t, YET).

Now, some of these film-inspired technological pieces are actually being put to paper, taking made-up Hollywood ideas and turning them into usable concepts.

Most of us would say, that’s pretty dang cool.

First, Apple watches, now space suits!

What’s next?

How Does NASA Know Which Ideas Are Good And Which Ones Aren’t?

While NASA has a pretty hefty budget, these experimental ideas must go through a series of 3 phases before too much money is dumped into them.

What are the phases?

Currently, there are 12 projects going in the first of three phases of development and 5 projects in phase 2.

Phase 1 is strictly an experimental phase, where researchers explore and determine how viable a project is. If it is deemed usable, then it will move into the second phase of experimentation.

Phase 2 is the part of the study where further technological advancements and experiments are made.

This takes at least 2 years, but if it is successful then it will be moved onto the third and final phase, which is where the project will be developed to the highest impact possible.

What is NASA working on?

Some examples of phase 1 projects that are in the works right now are a futuristic space suit.

This technology is built with a digital template which will help to design a comfortable, light-weight, accessible and affordable suit.

This suit is only in the preliminary first phase, but is so far quite promising. Its progress aligns with NASA’s goal to send humans to Mars in 2030.

One project that has made it to phase II of the NIAC program is one by a Carnegie Mellon assistant professor, Zac Manchester.

He and his colleague have been working on creating a foldable structure that can expand into something much larger.

Find the idea of these once Hollywood-inspired projects interesting? Check out the project from Carnegie Mellon University: https://www.cmu.edu/news/stories/archives/2022/april/nasa-folding-space-structures.html

#4 A Setback For Artemis 1 Moon Mission

The Artemis 1 mission had been talked about for quite some time as its launch date approached.

However, during its “wet rehearsal” on April 1, several technological issues pushed back the proceedings for over a week.

As they prepared to commence with the testing again, they discovered an unfortunate issue with the ship’s “helium check valve” which is responsible for purging fuel lines.

After some modifications and other key steps to ensure success and safety, NASA hopes that they can resume their testing on April 14.

Artemis 1 won’t be the first ship to struggle with their initial tests and frustrating leaky valves as these types of setbacks are common with rehearsals.

NASA feels confident that they will have a successful test next time as they have developed a plan and taken necessary action.

If you’re looking for more information on the Artemis 1, you can find the full article about their recent issues here: https://www.inverse.com/innovation/artemis-1-third-wet-dress-rehearsal

Photo: Hristo.

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