They say space is the place – and all sorts of things happen there. Here’s what you may have missed in space this week.
– Early this week, the internet was ablaze over an image from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that bears a striking resemblance to a bear.
– Whatever it looks like, it looks like it had a good day. It seems happy to me.
– The image, originally taken in December, shows a slice of the Martian landscape outlined by what NASA calls a circular fracture pattern, with two craters for eyes in what could be a volcanic formation for a nose and mouth. Now some have been quick to point out that in a topography as vast and varied as Mars, there are bound to be things that look like other things. And of course they may be technically right, but this still totally looks like a bear. On Wednesday evening, a bright green comet known as C/2022E3ZTF, or simply the Green Comet, became visible to Earth for the first time since the Stone Age.
– A comet that only passes Earth every 50,000 years now comes closest to Earth in our lifetime.
JOHN GIANFORTE: If you have a good clear view of the northern horizon…
– You can still try to spot the comet tonight and in the coming days.
– But if you live in a city like I do, buildings and light pollution will get in the way. But it’s still worth a try, because it won’t come back for at least another 50,000 years. Getting closer to home, NASA astronaut Nicole Duke Mann and Koichi Guacara of Japan’s JAXA space program took part in a seven-hour spacewalk Thursday to prepare for the installation of a new solar panel on the International Space Station.
– All smiles all around.
– Back on Earth, SpaceX launched their 200th Falcon 9 rocket which launched another series of Starlink internet satellites into orbit. And Vice President Harris presented the Congressional Medal of Honor to former astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, who teamed up with NASA to launch the first manned space mission to the International Space Station in 2020. And finally, this week marked the 20th anniversary of the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster. During reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, Columbia broke apart, killing all seven astronauts on board.
JOHN GIANFORTE: These men and women took great risks in the service of all mankind.
– In addition to the tragic loss of the crew, the investigation that followed revealed a major flaw in the shuttle’s heat protection and marked the beginning of the end for the space shuttle program, which was officially retired in 2011.