Like previous years before it, the year 2019 had some memorable moments relating to space and astronomy. There are a number of memorable events noted by NASA. Here are a few.
The black hole was seen
The existence of a black hole was never in doubt. It has been shown in many illustrator impressions and in science fiction movies as well. Science students might have even sought assignment help on topics related to this. But in reality, no one really knew what it looked like, until April 10, 2019, when a large void was seen in the center of galaxy Messier 87, looking like a retina at the middle of the eye.
Moon landing is not so easy after all
At the beginning of the year, China successfully landed at the far side of the moon which was something that had not been done by any country before. You’d have thought that’s a good sign for more lunar achievement in the year, especially since it was also the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 mission. Well, it did not quite go well afterward.
The Israelis built a lander for a moon mission. But it crashed on the surface of the moon in April. There was yet another disaster as the Indian space agency, during the attempt to land on the South Pole of the moon, lost communication with its Vikram lander. NASA with an Indian hobbyist’s volunteer labor was afterward able to show where it crashed.
We got the first all-women spacewalk
Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made history in October as the first partaker of an all-women spacewalk. The first spacewalk planned for two female astronauts was canceled because the space station didn’t have the right spacesuits for the female astronauts. The suits were delivered to them and the 7-hour spacewalk did happen.
However, the fact that an earlier spacewalk had to be canceled for the absence of a right suit for the women astronauts is a timely reminder that the space program was not designed for women in the first place. It was made for men, by men, as Mary Robinette Kowal, one of the top writers of science fiction novels noted.
Space changes a man
Scott Kelly, an astronaut that was in space for 340 days, as compared with his twin brother Mark Kelly, who was on earth, on his return by NASA scientists. The scientists discovered that Scott’s body underwent a large number of changes, including DNA mutations and a reduction in certain cognitive tests. Although, after he returned to earth, a lot of the changes were reversed, some did not reverse. While some scientists noted that the risks were manageable, some others think that it serves as a caution, a warning over the safety of long space trips for humans.
Allegation of space crime
Space crime is not something that anyone has thought of previously, but for the first time, in 2019, an allegation of a space crime was made. Anne McClain, who is a NASA astronaut was alleged by her ex-partner of stealing her identity and improperly accessing her private financial records.
Ms. McClain admitted to having accessed the bank account of Ms. Wooden, but she claimed that she has always been the one responsible for their finances as a couple. The case has not been determined yet.
The space battlefield
US Congress authorized President Trump to build a ‘space force’, and even gave him a budget for it. We do not know yet what that space force will be, what to expect or what it will look like. But when India, in March, tested an antisatellite weapon, it was a testament to the fact that many nations are now looking to build their defenses beyond what earth’s atmosphere has to offer.
Methane and oxygen mysteriously detected in Mars
If you have been gassed about the proposed human exploration of Mars, perhaps this will get you more excited. NASA’s rover, Curiosity, detected some unusual signs on the surface of Mars. Firstly, methane, which is a gas produced on earth by living things, had a spike on Mars which was detected by the rover in June. As NASA scientists started to wonder if that was evidence of life, even if it’s microbial, on Mars. The gas literally disappeared.
While that puzzle was still unsolved, a varying quantity of oxygen was also detected on Mars in November. Could this be a sign of life outside earth? That should already be in a dissertation today.
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