TIME space travel

Watch a 3,500-Pound Spaceship Burn Up in the Atmosphere

When the Cygnus supply ship arrived at the International Space Station in July with cargo that included food, science equipment and mini-satellites, the astronauts aboard knew it would be making a dramatic exit.

Cygnus was released on August 15 from the ISS carrying more than 3,000 pounds of garbage, and was catapulted through the atmosphere with the plan of having it burn its way into oblivion.

And burn its way into oblivion it did. The commercial cargo ship separated from the ISS and dropped into the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean two days later. A Vine posted Friday by one of the ISS’s current six astronauts, Reid Wiseman, shows Cygnus reentering the atmosphere and flaring up into a crisp.

TIME space travel

Watch: SpaceX Rocket Detonated Mid-Flight During Test

A SpaceX rocket detonated automatically when a problem was detected during a test flight

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A SpaceX rocket exploded over McGregor, Texas during a test flight Friday, though no one was injured in the incident.

A problem was detected during a test of a three-engine version of SpaceX’s F9R vehicle, the company said, and the flight’s termination system then automatically self-destructed, bringing the mission to a sudden end.

“Today’s test was particularly complex, pushing the limits of the vehicle further than any previous test,” SpaceX said in a statement.

SpaceX is a space transport company founded by PayPal founder and Tesla executive Elon Musk. The company has been working closely with NASA, and its Dragon capsule has been used to send unmanned resupply missions to the International Space Station.

SpaceX’s F9R rocket is reusable, and could make spaceflight 100 times cheaper, Musk has said, NBC reports.

Musk said in a Twitter post that there were no “near injuries” in the explosion.

TIME space travel

NASA’s Hubble Finds Supernova Star System Linked to Potential ‘Zombie Star’

The two inset images show before-and-after images captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope of Supernova 2012Z in the spiral galaxy NGC 1309. The white X at the top of the main image marks the location of the supernova in the galaxy. NASA

Thankfully, there are no brains anywhere around this particular zombie

Less like The Walking Dead and more like The Floating Dead: Astronomers believe they have identified the remnants left from an exploded white dwarf, otherwise known as a “zombie star,” about 110 million light-years from Earth.

Images like this one, shot with NASA’s Hubble Telescope, reveal the onset and aftermath of a “weaker” supernova, which happens when something changes in the core of a star and sets off a nuclear reaction.

The discovery of one of these less robust supernovas is a rare find in the world of interstellar study, and can help “to measure vast cosmic distances and the expansion of the universe,” said Rutgers University scientist Saurabh Jha, who’s part of the team that put together findings on the zombie star for Thursday’s edition of Nature.

TIME space travel

Photos from the Curiosity Rover’s First 2 Incredible Years on Mars

On Aug. 5, 2012, NASA's Curiosity rover successfully landed on Mars. Here are pictures from its exploration thus far

TIME space

SpaceX Is Building a New Launch Site In Texas

The next launch site for billionaire Elon Musk's space company will be built in one of the poorest cities in America

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Texas Governor Rick Perry announced Monday that private space company SpaceX will build the first-ever exclusively commercial launch site near Brownsville, Texas. SpaceX, owned and operated by PayPal billionaire Elon Musk, received a $2.3 million investment from the state to build its site in Texas.

Brownsville has a median income of $30,000, and nearly 40% of Brownsville’s population lives below the poverty line — the highest percentage in the country. Perry said in his announcement that the SpaceX site will bring 300 new jobs and inject $85 million into the local economy.

TIME space travel

NASA Mars Rover Breaks Driving Record

Mars Rover
An artist's rendering of NASA’s Opportunity Mars Rover NASA/AP

Opportunity Mars Rover has driven 25 miles and surpassed expectations since it reached the planet in 2004

NASA’s Opportunity Mars Rover has set a new record for the longest off-Earth driving distance, the administration announced.

Opportunity has driven 25 miles since it arrived on Mars in 2004. It crossed the milestone after a 157-foot drive on Sunday.

“This is so remarkable considering Opportunity was intended to drive about one kilometer and was never designed for distance,” John Callas, Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager, said in a statement. “But what is really important is not how many miles the rover has racked up, but how much exploration and discovery we have accomplished over that distance.”

Opportunity is traveling along the rim of the Endeavor Crater, where NASA has gathered evidence of ancient water supply that was less acidic than those studied elsewhere on the planet.

As the rover approached this milestone, the team behind it named a 20-foot-wide Mars crater after the previous record holder, the Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2, which drove 24.2 miles on the moon in 1973.

TIME space travel

When Man Met Moon

The cover of Time Magazine on July 25, 1969
The cover of Time Magazine on July 25, 1969

Forty-five years after the giant leap for mankind, TIME remembers the July 25, 1969, issue

There’s always something grandiose about gazing back across the gulf of history. Today, we know so much about what was to come, and the people of the past knew so very little. It’s impossible to read through TIME’s July 25, 1969 issue—which was released 45 years ago this week, will be re-released in full on Time’s tablet edition next week and featured the epochal Apollo 11 moon-landing on its cover—and not indulge in some of that generational smugness. There is the good-news story about a lull in the fighting in Vietnam—a story that feels a lot less good when you know that the war would drag on for six more years and kill more than 15,000 additional American soldiers. There was the laudatory profile of Attorney General John Mitchell, the man nicknamed “Nixon’s heavyweight,” who would later come to be known less nobly as inmate number 24171-157, serving 19 months in prison for his part in the Watergate scandal.

There were the ads too—for sugar as a diet food (it can “turn your appestat back to low”), for Marlboro Longhorn 100’s, for RCA’s Octoputer, a computer mainframe that “works from way over here where you are to way over there where it is.” There was the story about the European Common Market, and the question of whether it would ever lead to a true European Union. (Answer: yes, sort of, eventually.) There was the speculation over what effect the Chappaquiddick accident, which occurred the same week as the moon landing, would have on Teddy Kennedy’s “nationwide constituency,” polite code for his Presidential prospects. (Answer: a bad one.) The folly of “the appestat,” the future of the computer, the bloody arc of Vietnam were all part of the unknowable future to the people of then and are just lines in the historical archives to the people of now.

But here’s the thing about those people, the ones who opened that edition of TIME two generations ago—that paper edition with its adhesive mailing label and its Louis Glansman acrylic painting of Neil Armstrong on the cover, which was the best color image of the moonwalk available since the Apollo 11 crew had not yet returned home with their hand-carried rolls of film that would still have to be taken to the lab for processing and then hand-distributed or sent by wire to the world: those people belonged to an age that could put human beings on the moon and you don’t.

They had achieved that momentous feat just days before TIME’s issue hit the stands and would do it again and again and again and again. They had gone from a standing start on a spit of land in eastern Florida in 1961 to the Sea of Tranquility in 1969, not only proving that the damned thing could be done, not only besting the Russians, who had long led the Space Race—the great meme of that pre-meme age—but making a war-torn, race-torn nation that had every reason to feel very, very bad about itself, feel, at least briefly, very, very good.

That the giddy forecasts that followed the mission never materialized—the boot prints on Mars in 1982, the 12-person space stations (“including the first American spacewoman,” TIME reported) by the 1970s—does nothing to diminish the thing that did happen. That thing happened two generations ago this summer, and it kept happening until 1972, when American astronauts left the moon for the last time—and for what has turned out to be a very long time. So hat tip to you, people of 1969; maybe we’ll grow up to be just like you.

TIME space travel

Watch: Astronauts Aboard ISS Answer Your Questions

What simple pleasures are missing up in space? A nice, warm shower, for starters

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Three of the six astronauts aboard the International Space Station spoke with TIME this week, via video downlink, to answer some of our readers’ questions on their daily lives 240 miles above Earth.

Watch this video clip for answers to everything–from what types of cameras these three use in space to get stunning shots like this one, to they really miss about the old home planet.

TIME space travel

Photos: Life Aboard the International Space Station

Ahead of TIME's July 9 talk with the astronauts on board the International Space Station, take a look back at ISS Expedition 41.

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