Saturday is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the moment humans first set foot on the lunar landscape. And while that's brought with it some dazzling displays of commemoration, it has also put the discourse on the present and future of human space exploration front and center. The two surviving Apollo 11 astronauts weighed in on Friday evening.
Reunited in the Oval Office to celebrate the anniversary, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins both spoke about NASA and it's future plans after President Trump asked them their opinions. It's safe to say that they weren't entirely in agreement with the direction the agency has been going.
Collins, who remained in the command module while Aldrin and the late Neil Armstrong surfaced the moon, said he supports NASA bypassing a return to the moon — which is the current plan — and going straight to Mars. Aldrin, who is known for being direct, said he's disappointed with the state of human space exploration over the last decade or so. He also said that he doesn't support NASA's plan for a small space station around the moon from which to stage lunar landings, pointing out that Apollo 11 had no need.
Trump told NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who was also at the gathering, to listen to the "other side." It seems not even the anniversary moon landing can escape Trump's desire to stir the pot. Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell
Retired astronaut Mark Kelly has officially launched a run for U.S. Senate.
Kelly, who is also a former Navy Captain, announced on Tuesday that he will run as a Democrat in the 2020 special election to fill the seat vacated by the late senator John McCain and currently occupied by Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.).
"We've seen this retreat from science and data and facts, and if we don't take these issues seriously, we can't solve these problems," Kelly says in his announcement video. He cites "access to affordable healthcare, the stagnation of wages, job growth, the economy," and climate change as some of the key issues of his campaign.
The video also features Kelly's wife, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt in 2011. Kelly recounts the horrific shooting and says, "What do you do when bad things happen? You've got to move ahead and try to make a difference in the world."
McSally was appointed to McCain's old Senate seat by Gov. Doug Ducey (R) in January after having lost a close race against Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who became the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Arizona in 30 years.
On Thursday, China's state media announced that the Chang'e 4 lunar probe has successfully landed on the far side of the moon, becoming the first spacecraft to touch down on the part of the moon that always faces away from the Earth. Chang'e 4 landed at 10:26 a.m., the China National Space Administration said, and it sent back its first photo of a small crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin at 11:40 a.m. Chang'e 4, which took off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southern China on Dec. 8, will release a rover six hours after touchdown.
"The far side of the moon is a rare quiet place that is free from interference of radio signals from Earth," said mission spokesman Yu Guobin, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency. "This probe can fill the gap of low-frequency observation in radio astronomy and will provide important information for studying the origin of stars and nebula evolution." The mission will also try to discover if plants can grow in the moon's low gravity and explore if there's any water or other natural resources at the poles. Because the lack of radio signals on the far side, or dark side, of the moon means Earth can't directly communicated with the lunar probe, China launched a relay satellite in May.
China became just the third nation to land a spacecraft on the moon with Chang'e 3, whose Jade Rabbit lunar rover ceased operations in 2016 after 972 days exploring the moon. The U.S. was the first country to reach the moon, and the Soviet Union was the most recent before China arrived. Beijing celebrated the historic far-side landing as a sign that its ambitious space program is catching up with the U.S. and Russia. Peter Weber