This Week at NASA | This Week @ NASA: An Exoplanet Discovery from Hubble
Hubble makes an exoplanet discovery … The next space station crew gets ready to launch … And back to work in Florida after weathering the storm … a few of the stories to tell you about – This Week at NASA!
Hubble Finds Water Vapor on Habitable-Zone Exoplanet for 1st Time
Researchers using data from our Hubble Space Telescope have, for the first time, detected water vapor signatures in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system that resides in the “habitable zone.” This is the region around a star in which liquid water could potentially pool on the surface of a rocky planet. The planet – known as K2-18b, orbits a small red dwarf star about 110 light-years from us, in the constellation Leo. If confirmed by further studies, this will be the only exoplanet known to have both water in its atmosphere and temperatures that could sustain liquid water on a rocky surface.
Next Space Station Crew Departs for Kazakh Launch Site
The next crew headed to the International Space Station, including our Jessica Meir, wrapped up activities at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center outside Moscow on Sept. 10. Meir and her crewmates – Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos, and Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori – then departed for the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site in Kazakhstan to complete their training. The trio is scheduled to launch to the station on Sept. 25.
Mobile Launcher Returns to Launch Pad after Hurricane Dorian
On Sept. 10 at our Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the mobile launcher for our Artemis missions to the Moon began the 4-mile ride atop crawler-transporter 2 back to Launch Pad 39B – after being housed for more than a week inside the Vehicle Assembly Building due to Hurricane Dorian. With the mobile launcher back in place at the pad, teams can resume validation and verification testing for our Artemis I mission – which they plan to complete in the coming weeks. Artemis I will be the first integrated uncrewed test flight of our Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System or SLS rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center.
Hardware for NASA’s Artemis I Mission Coming Together
Meanwhile, progress toward the launch pad for Artemis I continues for our SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. SLS and Orion have moved from design and manufacturing, to testing and assembly and integration – some of the hardware has even been delivered to the launch pad at Kennedy. A new online animated video shows a breakdown of the parts that will make up the completed flight hardware for the mission. Check it out at go.nasa.gov/artemis1progress. Along with the Gateway in lunar orbit and a new human landing system, SLS and Orion create the backbone for our Artemis missions that will land astronauts on the Moon by 2024.
New Models Suggest Some Titan Lakes Are Explosion Craters
Radar data from our Cassini spacecraft were used in recently published research that suggests explosions of warming liquid nitrogen are responsible for the steep-rimmed craters encircling some of the methane-filled lakes on Saturn’s moon Titan. Most existing models that lay out the origin of Titan’s lakes point to a process that does not produce steep rims. Titan and Earth are the only planetary bodies in our solar system known to have stable surface liquids – water on Earth and methane and ethane on Titan — hydrocarbons that we think of as gases, but that behave as liquids in Titan’s frigid climate. The radar data were gathered during Cassini’s last close flyby of Titan, as the spacecraft prepared for its final plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere two years ago.
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