UFO Buster Radio News – 400: Virgin Galactic, Perseverance, and Actual Photos of Other Planets
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Virgin Galactic unveils sleek interior of SpaceShipTwo spaceliner (photos, video)
We now know what Virgin Galactic’s suborbital spaceliner looks like, inside and out.
The company, part of billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, today (July 28) revealed the cabin interior of the six-passenger SpaceShipTwo, which is designed to carry people and payloads to suborbital space and back.
“When we created Virgin Galactic, we started with what we believed would be an optimal customer experience and then built the spaceship around it,” Branson said in a statement today.
“We will continue with that ethos as we expand our fleet, build our operations and underpin Virgin Galactic’s position as the spaceline for Earth,” he said. “This cabin has been designed specifically to allow thousands of people like you and me to achieve the dream of spaceflight safely — and that is incredibly exciting.”
The interior, which Virgin Galactic devised in collaboration with London-based design agency Seymourpowell, is sleek and stylish. The cabin’s color palette “has been carefully curated so that it complements the architecture of the seat, the cabin itself and spacesuits,” company representatives wrote in the same statement. “The golden metallics resemble luminous desert sands, blues conjure celestial spaces and teals inspired by the ocean ground travelers back to Earth.”
SpaceShipTwo is hauled aloft by a big plane called WhiteKnightTwo, which drops the spacecraft at an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters). SpaceShipTwo’s onboard rocket motor then kicks on, blasting the vehicle up to suborbital space.
You can see the cabin for yourself in a new augmented reality (AR) mobile app, which is available for free from both the App Store and Play Store.
About 600 people have booked a seat to fly on SpaceShipTwo, at a ticket price (most recently) of $250,000.
NASA readies launch of Mars rover to look for signs of past life, collect samples for return to Earth
Perseverance tips the scales at 2,260 pounds, is roughly 10 feet long, nine feet wide and seven feet tall. It is equipped with a multi-joint robot arm, stretching seven feet when fully extended, that carries a rotating 99-pound turret at its far end housing a camera, a rock drill and chemical analyzers.
The Perseverance mission comes on the heels of two high-profile launches over the last week and a half by China and the United Arab Emirates to send their own probes to Mars, the first interplanetary missions launched by either nation.
While other bodies in the solar system might host habitable subsurface oceans and environments where living organisms might be present, “Mars really gives us the best opportunity in the short term to make a significant discovery that will forever change how we think of ourselves and forever change how we think of space exploration in general,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
If evidence of past life is, in fact, found, “I think people are going to be so excited about the discovery and what comes next that that we’re going to be doing missions throughout the solar system.”
“Perseverance is going to drill and prepare samples for return and cache them on the surface of Mars,” said Lori Glaze, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters. “In 2026, a fetch rover will be launched to collect those samples and bring them to a rocket that will launch them into orbit around Mars. Another orbiter will rendezvous and capture those samples for safe delivery to Earth.
“If it sounds complicated, it is,” she said. “But NASA’s investments in developing autonomous robots and landing large payloads on Mars have laid the groundwork for a successful sample return campaign.”
“Seven minutes of terror” before landing
Perseverance will reach Mars on February 18, plunging straight into the atmosphere for white-knuckle descent to Jezero Crater near the river delta and lake bottom scientists are so eager to explore.
Slamming into the atmosphere at some 12,100 mph, Perseverance’s heat shield will endure temperatures as high as 2,370 degrees as atmospheric friction slows the craft to just under 1,000 mph in four minutes. At that point, at an altitude of about seven miles and a velocity of around 940 mph, a 70.5-foot-wide parachute will unfurl.
Astronomers Capture the First Ever Photo of Two Planets Orbiting a Sun-Like Star
The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO VLT) has captured a world’s first: the first ever image of two giant exoplanets orbiting a young ‘Sun-like’ star TYC 8998-760-1 300 light years away from our own. The photograph could provide important information about the formation of our own solar system.
“Even though astronomers have indirectly detected thousands of planets in our galaxy, only a tiny fraction of these exoplanets have been directly imaged,” says co-author Matthew Kenworthy, Associate Professor at Leiden University, adding that “direct observations are important in the search for environments that can support life.” The direct imaging of two or more exoplanets around the same star is even more rare; only two such systems have been directly observed so far, both around stars markedly different from our Sun
Indirect observations (such as the Doppler technique, transits, and eclipses) are much more commonly used when searching for exoplanets. The Doppler technique is a good method for discovering exoplanets. It uses the Doppler effect to analyze the motion and properties of the star and planet.
The groundbreaking image—which is discussed in detail on the ESO website—is described as “a snapshot of an environment that is very similar to our Solar System, but at a much earlier stage of its evolution.”
As the ESO explains, direct observations of exoplanets are exceedingly rare but incredibly important in the search for planets like our own, which might support life. Imaging two exoplanets around the same star is even more remarkable, and capturing an image of two planets orbiting a Sun-like star is a unique accomplishment—a world’s first.
The two exoplanets—gas giants that are each several times larger than Jupiter—are the two bright dots in the middle and bottom right of the image.
Notably, both planets are very far away from their star: one is orbiting at 160 times Earth-Sun distance, and the other at about 320 times Earth-Sun distance. But while this image doesn’t show a system similar to ours in the present day, scientists hope that images like this one may shed some light on the early history of our solar system. For the rest of us, they’re just incredible to look at and at least try
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