“To infinity and beyond!” Astronaut-themed cartoon characters aside, here at Softcom we love that one of the powers of the internet is its ability to connect us with the final frontier. There are a lot of exciting things happening in space exploration, and all you need to go along for the ride is a good internet connection and a love of space, science and discovery. They say that understanding the universe that surrounds us can help us to understand our planet and ourselves much better, so here is a quick guide to what’s going on in space exploration and how to learn more.
Historic Helicopter Flight on Mars
While the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover continues to explore Mars’ surface, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is preparing for its first flight. According to a recent NASA statement, the Ingenuity aims to be the first powered flight on another world and, if successful, could further broaden the scope of what is possible with Mars exploration.
Gather the kids around (grown-up kids, too!) and unleash your inner scientist as you learn along with NASA about the difficulty of flying on Mars when compared with Earth. Gravity, atmosphere density, surface temperature highs and lows, winds and more are all considered, but scientists are optimistic as the system – from the performance of its rotors in rarified air to its solar panels, electrical heaters, and other components – has been tested and retested in the vacuum chambers and test labs of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)
Billed as the “largest, most powerful and complex space telescope ever built and launched into space… that will fundamentally alter our understanding of the universe,” the James Webb Space Telescope has a projected launch date of October 2021.
There are a lot of things that the Webb Telescope can do that are getting scientists excited. One neat aspect of the telescope is that it will be able to show us more stars at a higher resolution. According to astronomists, the combination of high resolution and infrared-detecting instruments on the telescope will reveal stars that are currently hidden even from the powerful Hubble Space Telescope. The wealth of additional star data will allow them to investigate a range of questions, from star birth to star death to the universe’s elusive expansion rate.
For details and lots of great photos, see their official website at https://www.jwst.nasa.gov/.
Exploring the Stars From Home
Luckily for us all who are stuck here on terra firma, all it takes to explore the stars is a high-speed internet connection, a computer, and a love of discovery. Here are a few resources that adults and kids will enjoy:
Explore Mars: Nature.com posted this captivating visual guide to NASA’s latest mission and hunt for life on Mars on their website, using photos and details to describe the mission, what they find, and why it’s significant.
NASA Solar System Explorer: This interactive tool gives you a real-time snapshot of our solar system including positions of planets and moons, comets present in our solar system at the moment, and other celestial objects. It works great on mobile, too, so you can access through your smartphone.
Google Maps Space: You might be used to using this for driving direction, but Google Maps has another version, Google Maps Space, that will also guide you through space, helping you to find your way around the surfaces of Venus, Moon, Mars, Europa, and Ganymede.
Star Mapper: Love constellations? This tool lets you look at the position of stars and distance between them. The data is captured from the agency’s Hipparcos mission that took place in the 90s.
Rocket Watch: If you’re into watching rocket launches, this is the website for you. There’s a schedule of upcoming launches, and you can also watch past events over and over. They also have an Android app to go with it.
Astronaut Live Stream: Explore space with the astronauts through this live stream link from the International Space Station (ISS).