This Month in Space: May
It seems as though the month of May came and went faster than any of us could post It’s gonna be May memes to our social pages. We’re officially halfway through 2018 (crazy right?!) and the month of May was teeming with an endless amount of exciting announcements over some highly anticipated news on rocket launches, futuristic projects and celestial discoveries.
Take a look back at just some of this month’s most exciting space highlights:
1. First-ever ‘Block 5’ Falcon 9 Rocket Successfully Launches Satellite
After a failed attempt at launching Bangabandhu-1, SpaceX was finally able to send the communications satellite into space aboard the first-ever Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket.
The Block 5 Falcon 9 is SpaceX’s most powerful and most reusable rocket that they’ve launched to date.
The launch of this satellite will make it possible for Bangladesh — a country of more than 130 million people — to have state-of-the-art internet, cable and cellular service.
The Block 5 Falcon 9 then safely returned to Earth where it landed on a drone ship off the coast of Florida.
2. NASA, Uber Team Up to Create Flying Cars
The next time you take an Uber home from a bar or airport, you could be riding on the futuristic brainchild of Uber and NASA’s latest collaboration. Well, maybe it’ll be a few times after your next Uber ride.
Uber and NASA have recently announced plans to work together to create the world’s first vertical take-off and landing vehicles, or VTOLs for short.
They’re not just developing these VTOLs to appease your childhood Jetson’s flying car fantasies. Their main goal is to create a ridesharing service to alleviate highway traffic in major cities. They’re also pretty darn cool, if we do say so ourselves.
The two companies hope to have the very first commercial VTOLs transporting customers as early as 2023.
3. NASA Captures Satellite View of Volcano’s Ash Plumes
NASA’s Terra spacecraft spotted a plume of ash wafting from a fissure in the Kilauea volcano on the Island of Hawaii. The newest eruption began on May 3.
Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world and has been erupting almost continuously since 1983. This eruption has not only destroyed several homes; it has also created poisonous, ground-level fumes that can negatively impact the health of Hawaiian locals.
The satellite was used to calculate the altitude at which the fumes lie to determine the level of health concerns the toxins pose to those closest to the eruption.
4. First Cloudless Exoplanet Ever is Discovered
Scientists recently detected the exoplanet WASP-96b — the first ever cloudless exoplanet to ever be discovered.
The atmospheric makeup of exoplanets greatly influences the light that scientists can measure as they pass by their host star. This creates a spectrum of light that is unique to each exoplanet.
WASP-96b is a hot gas giant whose atmospheric makeup showed the clearest signature ever observed for the element sodium which is an indication that the planet’s atmosphere doesn’t have a single cloud. Talk about great beach weather!
5. NASA Announces Plans to Send Helicopter to Mars in 2020
NASA recently announced that it will fly a demonstration helicopter during its next Mars rover mission. This helicopter will serve as a technology test to further explore the evolution of future rover vehicles on foreign planets.
The Mars Helicopter will be the first heavier-than-air vehicle to fly in another world, which will pave the way for future bird’s-eye-view explorations of the red planet.
The helicopter faces challenges like needing to fly autonomously once the craft finally reaches Mars and also needing to generate enough lift to successfully takeoff due to Mars’ gravity and atmospheric conditions.
After debating whether adding the helicopter to the mission would create setbacks for the original mission, mission officials agreed to allow the Mars Helicopter Mission to piggy-back off of the Mars 2020 Mission craft.
Need more information on upcoming launches? Check out our launch schedule to see all upcoming rocket launches!