Space News: February 2022

Hey there! We’re back again for more space news. February had plenty going on in the field of science and space exploration, ranging from updates on the future of consumer space travel all the way to the James Webb Telescope and its many aligning mirrors.

Ready for more? Let me tell you what happened!

By Allison.

#1 Virgin Galactic: Space Travel For The Average Joe

Ever wanted to go into space and see the wonders of Earth from a completely different point of view?

Well, that may be possible within the next year as the company Virgin Galactic has already tested it’s suborbital spaceliner several times.

How Does A Spaceplane Work?

The process that Virgin Galactic used to fly their planes into space was by using a carrier plane that’s called the VMS Eve.

The VMS Eve dropped the 2-pilot and 6-passenger plane, VSS Unity, once it reached an altitude of about 50,000 feet.

From there the plane fired up its onboard rocket motor and made its way back to the docking area in La Cruces, New Mexico at Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America.

By July 2021, the VSS Unity had already taken the founder of Virgin Galactics, Richard Branson, and three other passengers successfully into space and back, but the owner decided they needed more time for upgrades and vehicle maintenance.

Could space travel be coming sooner than later?

The company is hoping to have functioning spaceplanes, including the VSS Unity and another that’s still in the works, called VSS Imagine, up and running on a regular schedule by late 2023.

Wanting to witness our Earth from a one-of-a-kind bird’s eye view?

You can find more information about the VSS Unity and Virgin Galactic’s impressive mission for consumer space travel here: https://www.aerospace-technology.com/projects/virgin-spaceship/

#2 Make A Wish Because Shooting Stars Are Real

Were you ever told to make a wish if you saw a shooting star? Most of us probably were, but what’s the truth about these beautiful and fascinating streaks in the night sky?

Well, they’re really called hypervelocity stars.

What Is A Hypervelocity Star?

For many centuries, shooting stars were considered something of fantasy – they were angels falling from the heavens, a luminary or harbinger of death and destruction.

Whatever they were called, this thought was eventually debunked with modern science; shooting stars chocked up to be some basic space rocks burning up in our atmosphere.

Nothing fantastical at all…

In 2005-2014, an observation program incorporating a series of telescopes and surveys was able to confirm a new class of stars: the hypervelocity stars!

These stars were discovered to be moving at such impressive speeds that they were able to pull away and escape the gravity of their home galaxies.

How is a shooting star born?

In 1988, Jack Gilbert Hills was the first to theorize about these hypervelocity stars.

His idea was if two stars that are gravitationally bound to each other by a common center of mass, were eventually close enough to a black hole, that they would be pulled apart, rending the binary system in two.

In this fascinating situation, one of the planets would gain enough energy to essentially be slingshotted out of the galaxy, becoming a hypervelocity star, or more commonly called, a shooting star.

Want to learn more about the science behind a hypervelocity star? Check out the full article: https://theconversation.com/real-shooting-stars-exist-but-they-arent-the-streaks-you-see-in-a-clear-night-sky-172284

#3 James Webb Space Telescope Is Still On Schedule

The 10 billion dollar interstellar space project, the James Webb Space Telescope, continues to be right on track with its mirror alignments and calibrations.

The JWST even took an Instagram worthy selfie this month, confirming for the project’s engineers its successful 18 mirror segments nearly sitting in their appropriate positions.

So, when can we expect the James Webb Telescope to be ready?

It will still be a while…

It is predicted that by June of this year, the JWST will be finished fully calibrating and begin the process of investigating scientific events as they arise.

Another task of the James Webb Space Telescope is to follow up on the Hubble Space Telescope’s discoveries of other potential galaxies.

If you’re following the journey of the James Webb Space Telescope, then continue reading up on its mission here: https://blogs.nasa.gov/webb/2022/02/11/photons-received-webb-sees-its-first-star-18-times/

#4 The Face Of The Moon Will Get A New Crater

After decades of satellites and other objects that have been sent into space, we eventually get to deal with all of the “junk” that breaks off and hurtles through the abyss.

Sometimes though, these pieces of space junk hit a little too close to home.

The moon has taken the brunt of many chunks of space debris over the years and it has another one coming at the beginning of March.

Poor moon… thankfully, it doesn’t mind too much.

The piece of debris is about 12 meters long (about the size of a school bus!) and thought to have stemmed from the SpaceX rocket launch, specifically from the Falcon 9 rocket booster, that was launched in 2015.

The debris’ chaotic journey between the Earth and the moon’s gravitational pull bouncing it around like a pinball, will eventually come to a halt when it makes an impact with our moon’s surface, giving it a nice, shiny new crater.

Curious about the details of this large piece of space junk and its interesting 7 year journey?

You can read the full article here: https://www.npr.org/2022/02/02/1077306944/rocket-spacex-moon-crash

Photo: Sindre.

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