This Week in Outer Space: There’s a bear on Mars and a green comet passing by Earth
They say space is the place — and there’s a whole lot going on out there. Here’s what you may have missed this week in outer space.
- Early in the week, the internet was ablaze over an image captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that bears a striking resemblance to a bear.
- Whatever it looks like, it looks like it had a good day. It looks happy to me.
- The image, which was originally captured in December, shows a patch of the Martian landscape outlined by what NASA calls a circular fracture pattern, with two craters for eyes in what may be a volcanic formation for a nose and mouth. Now, some have been quick to point out that in a topography as vast and varied as Mars, there are bound to be things that sort of look like other things. And sure, they may technically be right, but this still totally looks like a bear. On Wednesday night, a bright green comet known as C/2022E3ZTF, or simply the green comet, became visible to Earth for the first time since the Stone Age.
- A comet that only comes by Earth Every 50,000 years is making its closest pass to Earth in our lifetimes right now.
JOHN GIANFORTE: If you have a good unobstructed view of the northern horizon--
- You can still try to spot the comet again tonight and in the coming days.
- Although if you're like me and live in a city, buildings and light pollution are going to get in the way. But it's still worth a shot because it won't be coming back for at least another 50,000 years. Moving closer to home, on Thursday, NASA Astronaut Nicole Duke Mann and Koichi Guacara from Japan's JAXA space program took part in a seven-hour spacewalk to help prepare for the installation of a new solar array on the International Space Station.
- All smiles all around.
- Back down on Earth, SpaceX launched their 200th Falcon 9 rocket carrying another batch of Starlink internet satellites into orbit. And Vice President Harris awarded the Congressional space medal of honor to former astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, who piloted the first crewed space mission, in conjunction with NASA, to the International Space Station in 2020. And finally, this week marked the 20th anniversary of the Columbia space shuttle disaster. During re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, Columbia broke apart, killing all seven astronauts aboard.
JOHN GIANFORTE: These men and women assumed great risk in the service to all humanity.
- In addition to the tragic loss of the crew, the investigation that followed exposed a major flaw in the shuttle's heat shielding and marked the beginning of the end for the space shuttle program, which was officially retired in 2011.