Welcome to the fourth installment of The Planetary Post, my monthly newsletter featuring the most notable space happenings. This month, I explore NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab at Caltech in Pasadena, California with two amazing young women as my co-hosts.
Go beyond my video log and discover more using the links below:
Big Discovery Beyond Neptune: The Solar System beyond Neptune is full of worlds hosting moons. Now we know that the dwarf planet Makemake has one of its very own. This discovery means that every formally-designated Kuiper Belt dwarf planet has at least one moon!
11 Holes For Curiosity: Curiosity has some new soil to analyze, helping us understand the history of liquid water in Gale crater. Before descending the western edge of a plateau to drive among the Murray Buttes (named for our co-founder Bruce Murray), Curiosity is pausing to drill into sandstone rocks to study how groundwater altered them.
Kepler’s 2,325 Planets: The Kepler mission just verified 1,284 new planets, the largest collection of planets ever discovered. Of the nearly 5,000 total planet candidates found to date, more than 3,200 now have been verified, and 2,325 of these were discovered by Kepler.
Three Potentially Habitable Worlds Found: A team of astronomers at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) recently found three Earth-sized planets orbiting around a nearby ultracool dwarf star. There is a great deal of data that needs gathering before we can say whether or not these Earth-sized worlds are truly Earthlike, but for now, the thought of these three alien worlds is truly wondrous.
ET-94’s Journey to Los Angeles: Two modern engineering marvels crossed paths recently in Central America, as the last unflown space shuttle external fuel tank passed through the Panama Canal during a multi-week voyage from New Orleans to Los Angeles. ET-94 will soon traverse the L.A. city streets and should arrive at the California Science Center on May 21.
Vote4Space: The United States Senate just proposed a funding bill that would slash funding for NASA's planetary exploration program by hundreds of millions of dollars. Planetary Society members and other space advocates have sent more than 106,000 messages in support of NASA and space exploration to the White House and Congress. We also raised over $95,000 to support our grassroots efforts to advocate for more missions, more science, and more exploration. If you live in the U.S., we urge you to write your Congressional representatives to tell them to reject this cut. We've made it easy for you with this online petition.
SpaceX Booster Landing Success: One by land, two by sea—SpaceX has now successfully launched and landed three Falcon 9 boosters. Most recently, Elon Musk and his team landed their third booster in the middle of the night on a floating droneship.
You can click the image below to download a breathtaking high-resolution copy this month’s Picardo’s Pic.
NASA / Bill Ingalls
Mercury Solar Transit - May 9, 2016
The planet Mercury as it transits across the sun May 9, 2016, as viewed from Boyertown, Pennsylvania.
I hope you enjoyed this issue of The Planetary Post. See you in June!
Robert Picardo Board Member, The Planetary Society