Blast from the Past: Adventures on Mars

Credit: NASA

Back in 2016, NASA put a few fun posters online advertising opportunities on Mars. The posters were originally originally commissioned by NASA to be part of an exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in 2009.

Visit the NASA poster site if you want the files for these images and others. They are great for framing, note cards, or post cards.

Credit: NASA

ChatGPT: Imagining a Future Press Release About CERES

Image (Credit): The dwarf planet Ceres. (NASA)

I was playing with ChatGPT recently and asked it to create a NASA press release that would be issued if we ever found life on the dwarf planet Ceres. I wanted to see what it would create. Here it is:

NASA Press Release: NASA Discovers Possible Signs of Life on Ceres

NASA scientists studying data from the Dawn spacecraft have discovered evidence of possible life on Ceres, one of the largest objects in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The discovery was made possible through the use of sophisticated instruments on the spacecraft, which has been orbiting Ceres since 2015.

The data collected by Dawn suggests the presence of complex organic molecules on the surface of Ceres, which are often associated with the presence of life. In addition, scientists have detected the presence of hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor of Ceres, providing further evidence of the potential for life on this small world.

“We are excited to announce that we have discovered evidence of possible life on Ceres,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “This discovery is a testament to the ingenuity and hard work of the scientists and engineers involved in the Dawn mission, and it opens up a whole new world of possibilities for astrobiology.”

The discovery of possible life on Ceres is significant because it suggests that life may be more common in the universe than previously thought. It also has important implications for future exploration of our solar system and beyond.

“We have always been fascinated by the possibility of finding life beyond Earth,” said Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This discovery gives us new hope that we may not be alone in the universe, and it underscores the importance of continuing to explore our solar system and beyond.”

The Dawn spacecraft is currently in its final orbit around Ceres and will continue to collect data for as long as its instruments remain operational. NASA scientists are also planning future missions to Ceres to further study the potential for life on this small world.

For more information on this exciting discovery, visit the NASA website at

NASA Headquarters

It’s a fun fictional piece that builds on some real information, though it has its weak points. Here are some of my observations:

  • Spacecraft Information – Outdated: NASA lost contact with the Dawn spacecraft in November 2018, so a recent finding like this is unlikely unless it was buried in earlier data still being studied. The press release later states that the Dawn spacecraft is in its final orbit and still collecting data. While the spacecraft might remain in orbit for decades to some, its mission is over, as NASA noted when it stated: “Dawn spent every last drop of hydrazine making science observations of Ceres and radioing them back so we could learn more about the solar system we call home.”
  • Scientific Information – Good Speculation: Ceres does have hydrothermal vents that some have speculated could harbor life.
  • People – Actual Officials: The two NASA officials quoted are real officials – Administrator Bill Nelson and Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate – saying the sorts of things you would expect people in their positions to say.

Overall, it is a good demonstration of what these chat bots can do – piece together a credible enough summary to keep you guessing. Just don’t post this anywhere without full context. I do not want to start any rumors.

Space Mission: ESA’s Juice Mission

Image (Credit): Upper stage of the Ariane 5 rocket that will launch ESA’s Juice mission. (ESA)

On April 13th, the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch its Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice) mission from French Guiana. The purpose of the mission is to conduct a detailed study of Jupiter as well as three of its moons (and their oceans) – Ganymede, Callisto and Europa. The spacecraft will eventually go into orbit around Ganymede, which will be the first orbit of a moon in our solar system other than Earth’s Moon.

The key milestones for the mission are listed below and shown in greater detail within the graphic as well:

February 2023: Juice arrives in French Guiana

April 13, 2023: Launch on Ariane-5 rocket

July 2031: Arrival at Jupiter

-July 2031 – November 2034: 35 icy moon flybys

December 2034: Arrival at Ganymede

Image (Credit): Juice mission milestones. (ESA JUICE Launch Kit)

In addition to ESA/European scientific instruments and equipment, the spacecraft will also carry items from NASA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the Israel Space Agency.

The delayed arrival at Jupiter relates to the need for multiple flybys cover this great distance. In The Financial Times, Justin Byrne, head of science for lead contractor Airbus, stated, “Ariane-5 is a very powerful rocket but it can only give us about half the energy we need to get to Jupiter…We get the rest by doing planetary fly-bys, each one giving us a gravitational assist through a slingshot manoeuvre.”

The ESA put together a useful Launch Kit that answers any question you may have about the Juice mission, as well as related missions.

Pic of the Week: Blooming Stars in the Irregular Spiral Galaxy NGC 5486

Image (Credit): Irregular Spiral Galaxy NGC 5486. (ESA/Hubble & NASA, C. Kilpatrick)

This week’s image is from the Hubble Space Telescope. It shows the irregular spiral galaxy NGC 5486 with pink areas indicating the formation of new stars.

Here is a little more from the European Space Agency (ESA):

NGC 5486 hangs against a background of dim, distant galaxies in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The tenuous disc of the galaxy is threaded through with pink wisps of star formation, which stand out from the diffuse glow of the galaxy’s bright core. While this particular galaxy has indistinct, meandering spiral arms it lies close to the much larger Pinwheel Galaxy, one of the best known examples of ‘grand design’ spiral galaxies with prominent and well-defined spiral arms. In 2006 Hubble captured an image of the Pinwheel Galaxy which was — at the time — the largest and most detailed photo of a spiral galaxy ever taken with Hubble.

NGC 5486 lies 110 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Ursa Major. This observation comes from a selection of Hubble images exploring debris left behind by Type II supernovae. As massive stars reach the end of their lives, they cast off huge amounts of gas and dust before ending their lives in titanic supernova explosions. NGC 5486 hosted a supernova in 2004, and astronomers used the keen vision of Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys to explore the aftermath in the hopes of learning more about these explosive events.

Prototype of the New NASA Space Suits

Image (Credit): New Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit spacesuit. (NASA)

It is called the Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or AxEMU, but you can call it a lunar spacesuit. The newly designed spacesuit was on display today at the Space Center Houston’s Moon 2 Mars Festival. While the final suit will be in white, you get the idea with the prototype on display.

Axiom Space, the maker of the spacesuit, noted:

Since a spacesuit worn on the Moon must be white to reflect heat and protect astronauts from extreme high temperatures, a cover layer is currently being used for display purposes only to conceal the suit’s proprietary design. Axiom Space collaborated with costume designer Esther Marquis from the Apple TV+ series, “For All Mankind” to create this custom cover layer using the Axiom Space logo and brand colors.

It makes it sound like something being designed for Hollywood fans rather than a NASA-procurement contract. Is Axiom Space competing with Elon Musk on his design (see below)? Or maybe the company is trying to match the spacesuits from Lost in Space (also below)?

Whatever the case, NASA hopes to use these new suits for the lunar exploration under Artemis III. Moreover, NASA states these suits can fit “…at least 90 percent of the US male and female population.” I think they mean 90 percent of the population qualifying for such a mission. We cannot even fit the average American into train seats made for Europeans, so either the qualifying population is limited or these suits have a LOT of stretch-room.

Image (Credit): SpaceX astronaut spacesuits for the Dragon capsule. (SpaceX)
Image (Credit): Spacesuits on Lost in Space. (Netflix)