Space has been all the rage this month! NASA’s New Horizon’s spacecraft made a historic trip to Pluto, the Kepler exoplanet explorer discovered Kepler-452b, and three new crew members successfully joined the ISS. Let me catch you up here! 🌎🚀
NASA’s Kepler mission has confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a sun-like star. This discovery and the introduction of 11 other new small habitable zone candidate planets mark another milestone in the journey to finding another “Earth.”
Kepler-452b is 60 percent bigger in diameter than Earth and scientists feel there is a good chance its rocky, although its mass and composition are currently unknown.
“We can think of Kepler-452b as an older, bigger cousin to Earth, providing an opportunity to understand and reflect upon Earth’s evolving environment,” said Jon Jenkins, Kepler data analysis lead at NASA, who led the team that discovered Kepler-452b. “It’s awe-inspiring to consider that this planet has spent 6 billion years in the habitable zone of its star; longer than Earth. That’s substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet.”
The confirmation of Kepler-452b brings the total number of confirmed planets to 1,030.
A newly discovered mountain range lies near the southwestern margin of Pluto’s Tombaugh Regio (Tombaugh Region), situated between flat, icy plains and dark, heavily-cratered terrain. The image below was taken by New Horizons on July 14, 2015 from a distance of 48,000 miles and sent back to Earth on July 20.
Pluto’s largest moon Charon has snagged most of the press lately, but there are two smaller moons – Nix and Hydra – that were the second and third moons to be discovered.
Pluto’s jelly bean shaped moon Nix (left), has a reddish spot that has attracted the interest of mission scientists. Nix is estimated to be 26 miles long and 22 miles wide. Pluto’s awkwardly shaped moon Hydra (right) is 34 miles in length. The black and white image taken by New Horizons on July 14 reveals features as small as 0.7 miles.
International Space Station
Three crew members representing the United States, Russia and Japan have arrived at the International Space Station to continue important research!
NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Kimiya Yui launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:02 p.m. EDT Wednesday (3:02 a.m., Thursday, July 23 in Baikonur) and docked at the station at 10:45 p.m. They will be aboard the ISS for five months and are expected to return to Earth at the end of December.
The three men join Expedition 44 commander Gennady Padalka of Roscosmos and flight engineers Scott Kelly of NASA and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos, who have been aboard the complex since March 27.
Click the video below to see the successful launch of the Russian Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft on July 23, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.