Archive for July, 2022

Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University


Lunar caves would provide a temperate, stable, and safe thermal environment for long term exploration and habitation of the Moon.

Indeed, people could potentially live and work in lunar pits and caves with steady temperatures in the 60s. 


That’s the bottom line from researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Tyler Horvath, a UCLA doctoral student in planetary science, led the new research recently published in the American Geophysical Union’s Geophysical Research Letters. The research team also included UCLA professor of planetary science David Paige and Paul Hayne of the University of Colorado Boulder.

Credit: NASA

Desirable habitat

“For long term colonization and exploration of the Moon, pits may provide a desirable habitat: they are largely free from the constant threats of harmful radiation, impacts, and extreme temperatures,” states the paper. “Thus, pits and caves may offer greater mission safety than other potential base station locales, providing a valuable stepping stone for sustaining human life beyond Earth.”

Since the discovery of pits on the Moon by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) SELENE spacecraft in 2009, there has been interest in whether they provide access to caves that could be explored by rovers and astronauts.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

Prominent pit

Using data from the Diviner instrument aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has been continuously measuring the temperature of the lunar surface for over 11 years, the researchers methodically characterized the environment of one prominent pit located in Mare Tranquillitatis.

The Mare Tranquillitatis pit and (b) the Mare Ingenii pit.
Credit: Tyler Horvath, Paul O. Hayne, David A. Paige

The pit’s thermal environment is more hospitable compared to anywhere else on the Moon, with temperatures varying minimally around a comfortable 17°C (or 63° F) wherever the Sun does not shine directly, explains the research paper.

“Humans evolved living in caves, and to caves we might return when we live on the Moon,” said Paige in a UCLA press statement. Paige leads the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment.

Horvath and Paige are science team members for a new lunar-bound thermal camera led by Paul Hayne named the Lunar Compact Infrared Imaging System (L-CIRiS) which will head to the lunar south pole in late 2023 to get the first ground-based thermal images.

To read the full paper – “Thermal and Illumination Environments of Lunar Pits and Caves: Models and Observations From the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment” – go to:

Tech. Sgt. Ronald Dunn, 729th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, guides a Mongolian driver who is backing the truck toward an Air Force Reserve C-17 Globemaster III in Mongolia, Aug. 26. Dunn was part of a crew from March Air Reserve Base, Calif., who were assigned to a mission to retrieve space debris that fell to earth last summer. The parts were identified as expended rocket parts from an Air Force missile launched into space nearly a decade ago. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Linda Welz)


Increasing attention is being paid to the repercussion of rocket launches and space debris reentries on Earth’s fragile atmosphere, coupled to impacts on global climate and stratospheric ozone.

Exacerbating the situation is the rise of worldwide launch rates and the hurling of mega-constellations of satellites into Earth orbit. Then there’s the associated clutter of deceased spacecraft, discarded booster stages, and countless pieces of human-made refuse, from solid rocket motor effluents to stray nuts and bolts, tiny paint chips and droplets bubbling out of spacecraft coolant systems.

Space debris impact on functioning satellite.
Credit: The Aerospace Corporation

In short, it’s a heavenly mess – with long-term consequences.

The state of affairs has already been characterized by orbital debris experts as a “tragedy of the commons.”

For detailed information, go to my new Scientific American story with Lee Billings – “Don’t Fear China’s Falling Rocket—Fear the Future It Foretells: Long considered trivial, the effects of rocket launches and reentering space debris on global warming and ozone loss could soon become too large to ignore” – at:

Credit: The Aerospace Corporation

Credit: Space Foundation

NASA camera man Bill Ingalls is a sharp shooter for the space agency and has stories to tell.

Ingalls has been a professional photographer for three decades and has served as the Senior Contract Photographer for NASA Headquarters since 1989. 

Ingalls has traveled the world photographing missions for NASA. We have all been witness to his assignments and the resulting catalog of his impressive images, be they a launch departing Kennedy Space Center in Florida; the inside of an active volcano in Alaska; clicking away in the White House Oval Office to the brutally cold Kazakh steppes; and even crawling around on the floor in a Capitol Hill hearing room. He says, “because I can’t get up anymore.”

Go to my new story – “The amazing eye and insight of NASA space photographer Bill Ingalls” a photographer that has captured some of NASA’s most historic moments over the last three decades.

Story at:

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab


China’s “Lijian-1” carrier rocket is a new-type solid-propellant launch vehicle used to send six scientific experiment satellites into orbit July 27th.

The rocket has played a role in enriching China’s solid-propellant carrier rocket family with various technological innovations.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The Lijian-1 launch vehicle was launched for the first time from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu Province, northwest China. Also known as ZK-1A, this four-stage solid-propellant launch vehicle was jointly developed by the Institute of Mechanics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and CAS Space (Beijing Zhongke Aerospace Exploration Technology Co., Ltd.).

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Hydrogen-oxygen engine

Meanwhile, the high-thrust hydrogen-oxygen engine of China’s Long March-5 Y6 carrier rocket passed its calibration test on Tuesday.

This calibration experiment is a kind of short-range ground test under rated conditions of an engine ready for delivery to the final rocket assembly with the purposes to check and adjust performance parameters.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Only after passing the calibration test can an engine be officially installed on the rocket.



For videos on the Lijian-1 launch vehicle, go to:

For a video on the China’s Long March-5 Y6 engine test, go to:

Docking of Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft with core module.
Credit: CNSA/China Media Group/CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s Tianzhou-3 cargo craft re-entered the atmosphere “in a controlled manner” Wednesday, reports the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

Meanwhile, all eyes are on the “uncontrolled” re-entry of the hefty Long March-5 rocket body, now predicted to fall to Earth July 31 ± 22 hours, according to re-entry experts at The Aerospace Corporation. This Long March-5 leftover hurled the Wentian, the first lab module of China’s space station.

Credit: The Aerospace Corporation

As for the Tianzhou-3 cargo craft, it was launched on September 20, 2021, delivering roughly 6 tons of supplies to the in-construction station site. While in orbit, the cargo craft conducted two rendezvous and docking operations with the combination of the Tianhe core module, and carried out a test flight circling the space station.

Space technology tests

After its separation from the Tianhe combination on July 17, Tianzhou-3 carried out space technology tests, accumulating important experience for the in-orbit construction as well as the operation and management of the space station, according to a China Central Television (CCTV) report.

Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The Tianzhou-3 cargo craft flew independently during the rendezvous and docking between the Wentian lab module and the Tianhe core module. If any failure occurred during the docking process, Tianzhou-3 would have re-docked with the space station to provide living space for the astronauts, CCTV noted.

The CMSA explained that, as for the demise of the cargo vehicle, most of the spacecraft’s components burned up during re-entry, and a small amount of its debris fell into the scheduled safe waters.

Credit: The Aerospace Corporation

The Interstellar Probe, a mission to provide a unified view of our heliosphere, out into nearby interstellar space.
Credit: Johns Hopkins/APL

There is promising new work underway to pursue a deep space robotic interstellar mission. An Interstellar Probe venture can capture a unified view of our heliosphere, out into nearby interstellar space.

All of that sounds exceedingly lofty, ambitious, and tough-to-do.

But there’s no need to wait for new technology say advocates – it’s here, and one booster of choice for the mission could be NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS).

“It isn’t about where we are going. It’s about the journey out there. And it is a journey now long overdue,” says one leading advocate.

Go to my new story – “Interstellar probe: Has its time finally come?” – at:

The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, KPLO, is set for a one-year agenda of research.
Credit: Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI)

The first lunar mission of the Korean Aerospace Research Institute is slated for an upcoming SpaceX Falcon 9 boost.

The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, KPLO for short, is viewed as the first step of the country’s deep space agenda that includes a future first robotic landing onto the moon by 2030, as well as a sample collecting asteroid mission.

In May of this year, the KPLO was officially named “Danuri” – a blend of two Korean words for moon and “nurida” that means enjoy.

Go to my new story – “South Korea is ready to launch its 1st moon mission – The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter will lift off on Aug. 2” – at:

Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s Wentian lab module of China’s space station successfully docked with the combination of the Tianhe core module.

The Shenzhou-14 crew opened the door of Wentian and then entered the lab from the core module Tianhe.

Shenzhou-14 crew watches launch of the new lab module.
Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Launched on Sunday, the lab module flew to the station construction site, a process that took roughly 13 hours, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

It was the first time that China’s two 20-ton-level spacecrafts conducted rendezvous and docking in orbit, and also the first time that a space rendezvous and docking were carried out during the astronauts’ in-orbit stay in the space station, the CMSA said.

Shenzhou-14 crew enters new lab module. Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Experiment racks

Like the Tianhe, the Wentian lab module is also equipped with living facilities for the astronauts, including three sleeping areas, a toilet and a kitchen. It has an airlock cabin which will become the main exit-entry point for extravehicular activities (EVAs) once active, replacing the role now played by the Tianhe docking hub.

The astronauts are slated to conduct in-orbit work such as the attitude control of the combination of the space station, small mechanical arm crawling and the test of the complex of big and small arms.

They will also use the airlock cabin and the small mechanical arm of Wentian to carry out extravehicular activities.

Station complete is set for year’s end.
Credit: CNAS/CCTV Video News Agency/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Wentian’s main role is hosting experiment racks for science experiments, while also providing backups to the life support and control functions of the core module that was launched in April 2021.

Mengtian, the final component of the space station, is scheduled to arrive in October.

Crew handover

The new crew facilities will allow China to perform a first crew handover. This will take place when the current Shenzhou-14 crew — commander Chen Dong and co-astronauts Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe — greet three new astronauts aboard Shenzhou-15 in December.

The fully-built Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) station will then host six astronauts for a period of days.

For video views of the docking and the Shenzhou-14 crew boarding the new module, go to:


Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab


China’s Wentian lab module lifted off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in south China’s Hainan Province on July 24 – a milestone mission to enlarge the country’s space station.



The lab will function both as a backup of the station’s core module and serve as a scientific experiment platform.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The construction of China’s Tiangong space station is expected to be completed by year’s end. It will then evolve from a single-module structure into a national space laboratory with three modules — the core module, Tianhe, and two lab modules, Wentian and Mengtian.

The Tianhe core module was launched in April 2021, and the Mengtian module is set to be launched in October this year.

Credit: China Manned Space Engineering Office



The Wentian module is now set to rendezvous and dock to the front docking port of the core module that now houses the Shenzhou-14 crew: Chen Dong and co-astronauts Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe.


Video of the launch can be viewed at:


The team at online jigsaw site analyzed data from the National UFO Reporting Centre (NUFORC) to find the total number of UFO sightings in each state as a proportion of 100,000 of its residents.

They also looked at the number of sightings that were reported each month worldwide since the year 2000, to find the best month to spot a UFO for yourself.

The methodology used: The National UFO Reporting Center database was used and sightings as a proportion of each state’s population were calculated. The number of sightings per month was calculated from worldwide reports between January 2000 to December 2021.

Here’s what they found:

  • Washington is the most likely state to spot a UFO with 88.03 sightings per 100,000 residents.
  • Vermont and Montana have the second and third most sightings per 100,000 people respectively.
  • California has the highest total number of UFO sightings at 15,280.
  • July ranks as the best month to spot a UFO, with 603 reports filed during this month on average.

Up close and personal! Scene from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers circa 1956.
Credit: Columbia Pictures

Top 10

  1. Washington – 88.03 sightings per 100,000 residents

Washington is the most likely state to spot a UFO, with 88.03 sightings per 100,000 residents or 6,812 sightings in total. Washington is home to what is often regarded as the first UFO sighting of the modern age, which marked its 75th anniversary in June this year. On 24th June 1947, pilot Kenneth Arnold claimed to have seen a string of nine shiny objects flying past Mount Rainier at impossibly high speeds during his flight from Chehalis to Yakima, Washington.

  1. Vermont – 87.98 sightings per 100,000 residents

Vermont ranks a very close second place, with 87.98 sightings per 100,000 residents. The first of three New England States to make the top ten, Vermonters have reported 568 sightings in total, making it a top contender for unexplained aerial phenomena despite its smaller population. One of the state’s first recorded sightings occurred in 1961 above East Mountain, in which personnel at North Concord Air Force Station reported a strange object that remained stationary in the sky for 18 minutes. Some believe this was related to the Barney and Betty Hill purported alien abduction that took place in New Hampshire on the same evening.

  1. Montana – 86.21 sightings per 100,000 residents

Montana ranks third with 86.21 sightings per 100,000 residents for a total of 952 reported UFO sightings. One of the Treasure State’s most publicized alleged sightings is the Mariana UFO incident, which occurred on 15th August 1950. Nick Mariana, a general manager for a minor league baseball team, and his secretary spotted two rotating silver discs travelling at speed through the sky in Great Falls, Montana. Capturing the phenomena on 16mm film, the Air Force wrote off Mariana’s footage as reflections from two F-94 jet fighters, however, later studies have questioned the validity of this explanation.

  1. Alaska – 83.94 sightings per 100,000 residents

Alaska ranks fourth with 83.94 sightings per 100,000 residents or 615 sightings in total. On 17th November 1986, a Japanese Boeing 747 aircraft was completing a portion of its journey from Reykjavík to Anchorage, when its crew claimed to observe three UFOs as they flew over eastern Alaska. The first two were reportedly two square shaped crafts that appeared to have glowing nozzles, the heat from which could be felt by the onboard crew, and the third object was only seen by the captain but was described as a gigantic spaceship twice the size of an aircraft carrier.

  1. Maine – 81.55 sightings per 100,000 residents

Maine comes in fifth with 81.55 reports per 100,000 residents or 1,119 reports in total. Maine’s most well-known encounter with extraterrestrial life is the case of the Allagash Abductions which allegedly took place on 20th August 1976. A group of four men had taken a fishing boat out on to the water one evening while on a camping trip in Northern Maine. They noticed a bright object in the sky which shone out a beam that followed the men as they scrambled to shore. Once at the campsite, they all felt that they had skipped a substantial amount of time and were extremely fatigued. All four men underwent hypnosis several years later and gave identical recounts of being abducted and experimented on by aliens. 

  1. New Hampshire – 80.13 sightings per 100,000 residents

New Hampshire ranks sixth with 80.13 sightings per 100,000 residents or 1,113 sightings in total. The aforementioned case of Barney and Betty Hill in 1961 is perhaps New Hampshire’s most compelling and publicized account of extra-terrestrial encounters. The couple claim to have spotted and followed a 40-foot rotating craft in the sky while driving home from their vacation. The craft later descended on their parked vehicle with Barney claiming to have seen several humanoid figures on board. The couple stated that as they tried to drive away, they experienced a state of altered consciousness that placed them and their vehicle 35 miles south with no recollection of how they had got there.

  1. Oregon – 79.04 sightings per 100,000 residents

Oregon ranks seventh with 79.04 sightings per 100,000 residents or 3,356 sightings in total. Oregon is famed for the McMinnville UFO photographs taken on 11th May 1950, which are some of the most famous images ever captured of a UFO. The photos, which were captured by farming couple Paul and Evelyn Trent, show a three-dimensional metallic disc shaped object suspended in the sky above their house, before it then flew away in a western direction.

  1. New Mexico – 73.96 sightings per 100,000 residents

New Mexico ranks eight with 73.96 sightings per 100,000 residents or 1,565 reports in total. Many will be aware of the Roswell incident, a series of events so significant in UFO history that it sparked World UFO Day which is celebrated across the US every year. In 1947 a rancher helped Roswell Army Air Field officers to recover unusual debris he had found near his ranch near to Corona, New Mexico. The RAAF released a statement that they had recovered a flying disc, however this statement was later altered to state the debris had been from a weather balloon, which many felt formed part of a government alien coverup.

  1. Idaho – 67.13 sightings per 100,000 residents

Idaho ranks ninth place with 67.13 sightings per 100,000 residents or 1,276 sightings in total. Idaho has become something of a tourist destination for UFO enthusiasts, with countless accounts of bright lights over the sky of Twin Falls following the UFO buzz of 1947. The most well-known was the uncovering of a crashed 30-inch disc which was found by teenagers on 11th July 1947 and was handed over to the FBI for investigation. The story was however later uncovered as a hoax.

  1. Wyoming – 66.86 sightings per 100,000 residents

Wyoming completes the top ten with 66.86 sightings per 100,000 residents or 387 sightings in total. Looking at declassified reports of UFOs, Wyoming has had its fair share of sightings some of which have reasonable explanations and others leave room for speculation. One such occurrence was reported on 3rd December 1953, in which Captain David Porter spotted two objects moving in formation while piloting a C-47 aircraft. Watching them for seven minutes, they apparently changed color from red to white and were travelling up to speeds of 2,000 mph.

Information credit and link:

Sources: National UFO Reporting Center, United States Census Bureau