Archive for July, 2019

Courtesy of NASA/JPL/USGS

We’re Heading Back to the Moon and Then On to Mars

By Michael R. Pence, Vice President of the United States

Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, when “one small step for man” became “one giant leap for mankind.”

In that moment, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins helped our nation win the “space race,” answering the call made by President John F. Kennedy just eight years before to “put a man on the moon” before the decade was out.

But when President Kennedy issued that challenge, our nation was not yet prepared to meet it. We didn’t have the rockets, launch pads, spacesuits, or so many other vital technologies to get there safely – or, just as importantly, to return home.

In fact, history records that President Richard Nixon prepared a speech in the event of a tragedy, explaining to the nation that the mission had failed.

But thanks to the courage, grit and determination of the three space pioneers of Apollo 11 – and the hard work of the men and women behind their mission at NASA – that speech was never delivered.

Instead, the United States did the impossible by placing the first man on the surface of the moon. The snowy images of Armstrong and Aldrin walking across the lunar surface left an indelible mark on the imaginations of the 600 million people across the Earth who waited with fear and wonder.

Apollo 11 landing site.
Credit: NASA

The crew of Apollo 11 did more than plant a flag and leave a footprint – they brought our world together.

Unity is the true legacy of Apollo 11 – and we must capture that same unity in our own day by renewing our commitment to American leadership in space.

The United States will lead the creation of a base at the moon’s South Pole where astronauts could reside for weeks and months. And from what we learn there, we will become the first nation in the history of mankind to set foot on the red planet of Mars.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up the Space Policy Directive – 1 after signing it, directing NASA to return to the Moon, alongside members of the Senate, Congress, NASA, and commercial space companies in the Roosevelt room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017.
Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Under President Trump, we are doing just that.

In our first year in office, after it had laid dormant for nearly a quarter-century, President Trump revived the National Space Council to coordinate our nation’s space activities and bring the full force of our national interest to bear on decisions driving our space enterprise.

President Trump also recognizes that in this new era of opportunity, we will not fully unlock the mysteries of space unless we look beyond the halls of government for input, guidance and innovation.

That’s why we’ve unleashed American companies that are on the cutting edge of the space industry – developing the rockets, spaceships, and technologies that will take us further into space, faster than ever before.

And thanks to our administration’s decisive actions, America’s pioneering space companies are creating the American jobs of the future and blazing new trails into the skies above.

From the cargo ships that are resupplying the International Space Station, to the reusable lunar landers that will help put Americans back on the moon and the Space Launch System that will carry us deeper into space than ever before, America’s space industry is helping forge our future in the heavens above.

We know what the men and women of Apollo knew: The rules and values of space are written by those who have the courage to get there first and the commitment to stay.

Credit: ESA/NASA

So to continue the proud tradition established in the Apollo program, and to ensure that our most cherished values prevail in the skies above, President Trump has made it our national policy to return to the moon in the next five years – and this time, we will stay.

The first woman and the next man on the moon will both be American astronauts, launched by American rockets, from American soil. The United States will lead the creation of a base at the moon’s South Pole where astronauts could reside for weeks and months. And from what we learn there, we will become the first nation in the history of mankind to set foot on the red planet of Mars.

Credit: NASA

Under President Trump’s strong leadership, we’ve already signed into law one of the largest NASA budgets since the days of the Apollo program. And I am proud to announce that the crew vehicle for the Artemis I mission – our first step back to the moon – is officially “capsule complete.”

The tasks before us will involve hardship and hazard, sacrifice and determination. But we shall go forth – not in spite of the difficulties, but because of them.

Just as Apollo 11 united the world 50 years ago, so too will the United States astonish the world with the heights we reach and the wonders we achieve in our own age.

And under President Trump, we will lead the world into space once again.

This op-ed appeared at Fox News on July 20, 2019.

Curiosity Navcam Right B image taken on Sol 2469, July 18, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2470 duties.

Reports Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Curiosity finds itself parked in front of a fascinating area of martian bedrock with clearly lighter and darker colored areas next to each other.

Curiosity Navcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2468, July 17, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“This will be a ‘full’ contact science location and the rover will spend the next few sols examining the rocks in this immediate area just in front of the Southern Outcrop,” Guzewich adds.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 2468, July 17, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Full dust-removal treatment

A target on the lighter-colored bedrock was termed “Solway Firth” and is a Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) target and the full dust-removal tool treatment before Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) observations.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 2468, July 17, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The second contact science location (without the dust removal) will be “Nith” on the darker-colored bedrock.

Drill inspection

A second sol plan is slated to include a rare ChemCam image of the rover’s drill bit, Guzewich notes, “to examine how it has been worn during our years on Mars.”

Curiosity Navcam Right B image taken on Sol 2469, July 18, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“We are into the cloudy season on Mars and included two Navcam movies to study the water ice clouds that frequent the skies above Gale Crater in the afternoons and evenings this time of year,” Guzewich adds. “Lastly, Mastcam will take a large, and sure to be spectacular, mosaic of the nearby Southern Outcrop.”


I am pleased to take part in the Griffith Observatory celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, with events on multiple days.

Check out the full schedule of activities and watch some programs live online!

As part of the Los Angeles Griffith Observatory Golden Moon Festival, I’ll be detailing my new book:

Moon Rush: The New Space Race on July 21st.

Veteran space journalist Leonard David returns to Griffith Observatory to tell the story of the path for our return to the Moon. This time, however, it’s not just NASA that’s going. Nations from all over the world and private industry have big plans. Mr. David shares highlights from his new book.

A book signing follows the talk.

For detailed information, go to:

Image snagged by the Banxing-2 microsatellite that was deployed from the Tiangong-2 shows Shenzhou-11 (above) and Tiangong-2 docked in orbit on October 23, 2016.
Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences via GBTimes

China’s Tiangong -2 space lab is scheduled on Friday to make a controlled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

The space lab is 10.4 meters long, with the maximum diameter of 3.35 meters and a takeoff weight of 8.6 tons. With its solar panels unfolded, its wingspan is about 18.4 meters wide.

Taking the plunge

According to the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO), the space hardware will leave its orbit and re-enter on July 19 (Beijing time). Most of the spacecraft will be destroyed in the heated plunge through the atmosphere, and a small amount of debris is expected to fall in the safe sea area in the South Pacific (160-90 degrees west longitude and 30-45 degrees south latitude), according to the CMSEO.

Tiangong-2 space lab being readied for flight.
Credit: CAST

Key technologies tested

Tiangong-2 was lofted on September 15, 2016, with the space lab operating in orbit over 1,000 days, much longer than its two-year designed life.

Tiangong-2 hosted two Chinese astronauts for 30 days in what was China’s longest human space mission so far. China carried out a series of scientific and technological space experiments, and tested the in-orbit propellant refueling technology on Tiangong-2.

Back in early April 2018, an uncontrolled Tiangong-1 re-entered the atmosphere with the re -entry point located in the central region of the South Pacific Ocean, and most parts of that space lab were destroyed during its re-entry into the atmosphere.

China’s Tianzhou-1 resupply craft completed docking and refueling tasks with uncrewed Tiangong-2 space lab.
Credit: CCTV

Vital elements

These early space labs were vital elements of China’s human spaceflight program, one that is leading to assembling a larger space station in Earth orbit in the 2020’s.

Tiangong-1 reentry. Credit: The Aerospace Corporation/CORDS

China’s space station will be capable of hosting three astronauts for long durations and up to six during a change of astronauts. It is due to have two experiment modules and will be accompanied by a co-orbiting space telescope that can dock for maintenance and repairs.

Credit: CMSA

Credit: Sotheby’s


Sotheby’s third annual Space Exploration auction will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing.

The live auction begins in New York on July 20, 2019 at 9:00 AM MDT.

 The sale is highlighted by the earliest, sharpest and most accurate surviving video images of man’s first steps on the moon: the only surviving original first-generation NASA recording of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. At a combined runtime of 2 hours and 24 minutes, the recording captures everything, from the historic moment that Commander Neil Armstrong became the first human to step foot on another world, to the “long distance phone call” with then-President Richard Nixon of the United States, to the planting of the American flag.


Three metal reels (each 10 1/2 in. diameter) of Ampex 148 High Band 2-inch Quadruplex videotape, the tapes with video of the Apollo 11 lunar EVA recorded on July 20, 1969 at Mission Control, Manned Spaceflight Center, Houston, Texas, directly from narrow-band slow scan videotape converted to NTSC for network broadcast using Ampex VR-2000 video recorders.

Credit: Sotheby’s

The three tapes with running times of 45:04, 49:00, and 50:15 minutes, respectively, covering virtually the entire period of the EVA and including about 9 minutes at the beginning of reel 1 of Mission Control waiting for the lunar-surface camera to be deployed; the audio quality of all of the tapes is excellent. Each reel of videotape is housed in its original red-and-black manufacturer’s box with hinged lid (11 3/8 x 11 3/8 x 2 3/4 in.), the boxes also with printed adhesive labels reading “APOLLO 11 EVA | July 20, 1969.

Impressive collection

The sale also features a wide variety of material from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions, featuring direct consignments from astronauts including: Apollo 9 Lunar Module Pilot Russell Schweickart, Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 13 Mission Commander James Lovell, and the Estate of Apollo 16 Mission Commander John Young.

Credit: Sotheby’s





The sale also offers an impressive collection of flown mission artifacts, the finest single owner collection of flown Robbins medallions, early contractor’s models, spacesuits, photography, charts and much more.






To view the catalog, go to:

Credit: University of Michigan

A new national survey has taken the pulse of Americans as they reflect on Apollo 11 and the space program.

The survey was carried out by Jon D. Miller, Director of the International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy, Institute for Social Research, based at the University of Michigan in  Ann Arbor.  

Landmark achievement

According to the survey: “This brief examination of national survey data from 1988 and 2018 indicates that American adult tend to recall the first Apollo lunar landing as a landmark achievement of the space program, citing it more often than any other activity as the best achievement of the space program, the survey notes.

Credit: NEON/CNN

“Parallel national survey data indicate that a majority of American adults think that the space program has paid for itself through the development of new technologies and new scientific discoveries. The proportion of American adults holding this belief has increased steadily over the last 30 years.”

Broadly shared

In looking to the future, the survey concludes: “a substantial majority of American adults continue to believe that today’s space exploration should be viewed as similar to the earlier European explorations of this planet.”

Lastly, “the proportion of adults holding this view has increased over the last 30 years,” the survey concludes, and is broadly shared by American adults.

“This level of public recall and recognition reflect the deep-seated impact of the first moon landing in American culture,” notes Jon Miller in a University of Michigan press statement.

This report was submitted to NASA under a cooperative agreement.

To view the full report — Americans reflect on Apollo 11 and the space program — go to:

Simulated view of what Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong saw as the Lunar Module Eagle approached the aim point on the northeast flank of West crater (190 meters diameter). The odd shape of the image area is due to the small windows in the Eagle. North is to the right.
Credit: NAC M131494509L/NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

“Most people are familiar with the 16mm movie of the Apollo 11 landing,” explains Mark Robinson, leader of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) at Arizona State University.

“However that viewpoint was looking out the right window, entirely missing the hazards that Armstrong saw as the Eagle approached the surface. The LROC team simulated what Armstrong saw out his window,” Robinson adds.

Visual record

As the LROC team explains:

The only visual record of the historic Apollo 11 landing is from a 16mm time-lapse (6 frames per second) movie camera mounted in Buzz Aldrin’s window (right side of Lunar Module Eagle or LM).

Due to the small size of the LM windows and the angle at which the movie camera was mounted, what mission commander Neil Armstrong saw as he flew and landed the LM was not recorded.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has used its LROC system to provide looks at the Apollo 11 landing site. The remnants of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s historic first steps on the surface are seen as dark paths around the Lunar Module (LM), Lunar Ranging RetroReflector (LRRR) and Passive Seismic Experiment Package (PSEP), as well as leading to and from Little West crater.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Landing trajectory

The LROC team reconstructed the last three minutes of the landing trajectory (latitude, longitude, orientation, velocity, altitude) using landmark navigation and altitude call outs from the voice recording.

From this trajectory information, and high resolution LROC NAC images and topography, we simulated what Armstrong saw in those final minutes as he guided the LM down to the surface of the Moon.

Manual control

As the video begins, Armstrong could see the aim point was on the rocky northeastern flank of West crater over 620 feet (190 meters) in diameter, causing him to take manual control and fly horizontally, searching for a safe landing spot.

Apollo 11 moonwalkers, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
Credit: NASA


At the time, only Armstrong saw the hazard; he was too busy flying the LM to discuss the situation with mission control.

Side-by-side reconstruction

The LROC team acknowledges use of a time-synchronized version of the original 16mm film (Apollo Flight Journal) and the First Men on the Moon website, which synchronizes the air-to-ground voice transmission with the original 16mm film – resources that greatly aided the production of this work.

These sources were played side-by-side with our reconstruction during its production, allowing the LROC team to better match the reconstruction to the 16mm film and altitude callouts.

Go to this impressive video at:

Note: “Be sure and check out the three alternate versions of the video
posted at the bottom of the Featured Image,” Robinson adds, “especially the two astronaut version: ‘What Armstrong and Aldrin Saw: Simulation vs.
Original Film.’

A scientific team has reported on a way to make Mars habitable with a layer of aerogel – and by using the material it can mimic an Earthly greenhouse effect.

The researchers are from Harvard University, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, and the University of Edinburgh.

“A system for creating small islands of habitability would allow us to transform Mars in a controlled and scalable way,” said Laura Kerber with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She is one of the authors of the just-published “Enabling Martian habitability with silica aerogel via the solid-state greenhouse effect” published in the journal, Nature Astronomy.

New approach

The paper explains that the low temperatures and high ultraviolet radiation levels

at the surface of Mars today currently preclude the survival of life anywhere except perhaps in limited subsurface niches.

“Several ideas for making the Martian surface more habitable have been put forward, but they all involve massive environmental modification that will be well beyond human capability for the foreseeable future,” the research team explains.

They present a new approach to this problem.

Scientists are exploring how aerogel, a translucent, Styrofoam-like material, could be used as a building material on Mars. Aerogel retains heat; structures built with it could raise temperatures enough to melt water ice on the Martian surface.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Silica aerogel

“We show that widespread regions of the surface of Mars could be made habitable to photosynthetic life in the future via a solid-state analogue to Earth’s atmospheric greenhouse effect,” the Mars team adds.

Specifically, the team has demonstrated via experiments and computer models that under Martian environmental conditions, a 2–3 centimeter-thick layer of silica aerogel will simultaneously transmit sufficient visible light for photosynthesis, block hazardous ultraviolet radiation and raise temperatures underneath it permanently to above the melting point of water, without the need for any internal heat source.

The Red Planet as seen by Europe’s Mars Express.
Credit: ESA/D. O’Donnell – CC BY-SA IGO

Regional approach

“Placing silica aerogel shields over sufficiently ice-rich regions of the Martian surface could therefore allow photosynthetic life to survive there with minimal subsequent intervention,” they explain. “This regional approach to making Mars habitable is much more achievable than global atmospheric modification. In addition, it can be developed systematically, starting from minimal resources, and can be further tested in extreme environments on Earth today.”

Indeed, the researchers report they are going to test the material in Mars-like climates on Earth, such as the dry valleys of Antarctica or Chile.

The paper — Enabling Martian habitability with silica aerogel via the solid-state greenhouse effect – is available at:

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2467 science tasks.

New imagery from the robot includes these scenic shots:

Curiosity Navcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2466, July 15, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Navcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2466, July 15, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2466, July 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) produced this image on Sol 2466, July 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


Credit: Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum

I’m pleased to be taking part in “Apollopalooza” at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum

Date: July 15

Time: 10:30 am – 11:30 am

Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum

7711 East Academy Boulevard

Denver, Colorado 80230 United States

For overview information, go to:

Keynote Presentation: Leonard David

And also go to: