Scientific American 22 Jan 2018, 20:45 UTC Mary Voytek, NASA's senior scientist for astrobiology, likes to tell other researchers that "everyone is an astrobiologist; they just don't know it yet." What she means is that answering the question currently at the heart of astrobiology—Does life exist beyond Earth?—requires input from an incredibly wide range of disciplines, including astrophysics, geology, exoplanet science, planetary science, chemistry and various subfields of biology.
Cosmic Diary 22 Jan 2018, 17:56 UTC This is a section of Arnus Vallis (scene is 1.25×1 km, 0.78×0.62 mi). It’s a >300 km long valley that was carved out, not by water, but by lava, long ago. Since then the wind has taken over. The left wall of the valley seems to have layers etched into high relief by wind scour; the floor is covered by ripples (TARs, really). But what I love most about this valley is that along the right (east) side, a long dune extends for much of the valley’s length (it’s why you don’t see layers on the eastern wall). You’re looking at a small section of what could be the longest dune on Mars. You can read more about the geology of this valley in this paper.
Drew Ex Machina 22 Jan 2018, 14:28 UTC When space enthusiasts think about the Apollo program, they instantly recall the lunar missions which landed a total of a dozen NASA astronauts on the Moon. True fans of the Apollo missions will also readily remember the series of crewed test flights flown in Earth and lunar orbit during the nine months leading up to the historic Apollo 11 mission. Less well known, however, are the unmanned test flights which preceded these missions including the often forgotten Apollo 5 mission – the first unmanned test flight of the Lunar Module (LM) which would make the actual landing on the Moon possible.
Sky and Telescope 22 Jan 2018, 11:00 UTC NASA’s Kepler mission gave astronomers a bountiful supply of homework. Checking up on the 4,000-plus candidate exoplanets that it turned up is a daunting task. Among those tackling the list is the Robo-AO team. Robo-AO is an automated laser-guided adaptive optics system, which when hooked up to a large telescope (most recently, the 2.1-meter on Kitt Peak) enables rapid-fire observations of a couple hundred stars each night.
AmericaSpace 22 Jan 2018, 02:13 UTC By a strange quirk of fate, NASA’s Apollo 5 mission—which launched 50 years ago, this week—used the same booster as should have been ridden by the ill-fated Apollo 1 crew of Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. The three astronauts were intended to fly in early 1967, atop a Saturn IB booster, to put the “Block I” variant of the Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM) through its paces in low-Earth orbit. However, all three men died when a flash-fire swept through their spacecraft during a ground test. The Saturn IB itself was unharmed and was reassigned to carry Apollo 5, the first flight of the Grumman-built Lunar Module (LM), which would someday transport humans to the surface of the Moon. It was one of many legacies of the bravery of the Apollo 1 crew.
Astroquizzical 21 Jan 2018, 17:58 UTC The Earth rotates around its own axis once every twenty-four hours. The Moon, on the other hand, rotates once around its own axis every 28 days, and once around the Earth in that same 28 days. The end result of this combination is that the same side of the Moon is always facing the Earth. As the Moon moves to be directly above a different portion of the earth, its face also turns at exactly the same rate, so that only one hemisphere of the Moon is ever visible from our home here.