Space Stories: Passing of Apollo Astronaut Walter Cunningham, Opal on Mars, and Juno Recovers

Image (Credit): Walter Cunningham adjusts his pressure suit before the Apollo 7 launch on October 11, 1968. (NASA)

Here are some recent stories of interest.

NASA: “Apollo Astronaut Walter Cunningham Dies at 90

Former astronaut Walter Cunningham, who flew into space on Apollo 7, the first flight with crew in NASA’s Apollo Program, died early Tuesday morning in Houston. He was 90 years old. “Walt Cunningham was a fighter pilot, physicist, and an entrepreneur – but, above all, he was an explorer. On Apollo 7, the first launch of a crewed Apollo mission, Walt and his crewmates made history, paving the way for the Artemis Generation we see today,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “NASA will always remember his contributions to our nation’s space program and sends our condolences to the Cunningham family.”

New Atlas: “Curiosity Finds Opal on Mars – a Possible Water Source for Astronauts

NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered opal on Mars. The deposits may prove to be valuable to future Martian explorers not as jewelry but as a potential source of water. Opal is formed when water weathers silica-rich rocks, forming a solution that settles into cracks and crevices in the rock. Over time, this solution hardens into a solid lump that can be cloudy and dull or a dazzling display of color. Most supplies come from either Australia or Ethiopia, but now a new source has been discovered – Mars. “Juno Spacecraft Recovering its Memory After Mind-blowing Jupiter Flyby, NASA Says

NASA’s Juno probe is continuing to recover its memory at Jupiter after a data disruption interrupted communications between the spacecraft and its operators on Earth following a flyby of the giant planet in December. The Juno spacecraft’s latest flyby of Jupiter, its 47th close pass of the planet, was completed on Dec. 14. But as its operators at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were receiving science data from the flyby they found they could no longer directly access the spacecraft’s memory. The team successfully rebooted Juno’s computer and on Dec. 17 they placed the spacecraft into “safe mode” with only essential systems operating as a precaution.