As we turn the page on November, let’s embark on a visual journey through the stars and beyond, revisiting the intriguing and groundbreaking moments that defined the past month in space exploration.
With rockets of the future and rockets of the past, plus fresh Martian landscapes and newly assembled space stations, November had many captivating visuals to offer.
‘Hard to believe it’s real’
No doubt, the sight of 33 Raptor engines, collectively generating over 16 million pounds of thrust, is undeniably surreal. During its second flight test on November 18, SpaceX’s Starship megarocket achieved significant milestones, despite both of its stages exploding during the eight-minute test.
Lost in space
The Virtual Telescope Project 2.0 captured an image of the ISS crew lock bag lost in space on November 1. The photo, taken on November 15 with a 2-second exposure from a robotic telescope in Manciano, Italy, shows the bag orbiting Earth at 17,500 mph (28,000 kilometers per hour). Astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara lost the bag during an ISS spacewalk. It’s now a +6th magnitude object in Earth’s orbit, near the visibility threshold for the naked eye.
Shuttle boosters stand again
During the week of November 5, a pair of 116-foot-tall (35.3 meters) solid rocket motors (SRMs), each over 100,000 pounds, were vertically stacked at the California Science Center using a 450-foot crane. This is part of the “Go for Stack” display—the world’s only ready-to-launch space shuttle display. Donated by Northrop Grumman, the SRMs were connected to its aft skirts with 177 2-inch pins each, marking a key step in Endeavour’s 20-story vertical display. Arriving from the Mojave Air and Space Port less than a month ago, these SRMs are key components in the future assembly of the shuttle system, which will include the orbiter Endeavour and the iconic external tank.
The Martian horizon from space
NASA’s Odyssey orbiter, leveraging its THEMIS camera, provided a striking view of the Martian horizon, a result of meticulous planning by engineers over a three-month period. Captured from a vantage point roughly 402 kilometers above the Martian surface, this perspective is akin to the orbiting altitude of the International Space Station.
Three for the price of one
As NASA’s Lucy approached its first target object, the spacecraft showed an unexpected sight: the Dinkinesh asteroid had a moon. However, further views of the system, captured during a November 1 flyby, revealed another surprise—a second tiny moon orbiting Dinkinesh. NASA says it’s the first observation of a contact binary moon orbiting an asteroid.
A rare view of China’s space station
In November, we finally got to see the complete Tiangong space station. This photo was taken from the Shenzhou spacecraft by an astronaut aboard Shenzhou 16, just a few hundred feet above. The Chinese station, now fully operational with the addition of the Mengtian module last year, appears T-shaped in the image, showcasing its three modules and expansive solar panels. Mengtian and Wentian, the laboratory modules at the top and bottom, flank the central Tianhe module, housing the living quarters and docking hub, along with the station’s robotic arm.
A completed Dream Chaser
On November 2, Sierra Space unveiled its much-anticipated Dream Chaser spaceplane. Named Tenacity, this first-of-its-kind vehicle, now complete, is scheduled to be sent to NASA’s Neil A. Armstrong Test Facility in Ohio for a series of key tests in preparation for launch.
Dream Chaser is a significant advancement in space technology, being the only commercial orbital spaceplane capable of landing on a runway. Backed by a NASA contract for resupplying the International Space Station, Dream Chaser represents a novel way to access space. For its inaugural mission, Tenacity will ride atop United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket, which is scheduled to debut in April 2024.
First glimpse of a proposed lunar base
This artistic rendering from Thales Alenia Space depicts a future Moon base. But not just any base, as this module, dubbed the Multi-Purpose Habitat (MPH), could become humanity’s first permanent lunar habitat. As announced in late November, the company is working alongside the Italian Space Agency for the project, as part of a bilateral agreement with NASA.
Blue Origin in the wild
Spaceflight photographer Max Evans captured this rare view of Blue Origin’s upcoming New Glenn rocket, or, more specifically, the suspected first stage section. The heavy-lift launch vehicle, years behind schedule, is now expected to debut in August 2024, catapulting NASA’s EscaPADE spacecraft on a journey to Mars.
The caldera of Nemrut
On November 23, astronauts aboard the International Space Station, orbiting 418km above Earth, captured an image of Turkey’s dormant Nemrut volcano. Within its caldera lies Lake Nemrut, a freshwater lake fed by hot springs. Prominently visible near the bottom of the image is Lake Van, Turkey’s largest lake, known for its alkaline waters.
Fly the lightning
Mission patches tend to be bland, but Firefly Aerospace’s latest design for its upcoming “Fly the Lightning” mission is totally metal.
The blue flame of progress
NASA’s Glenn Research Center recently tested the Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) in a vacuum chamber, showcasing its distinctive blue hue. This 12-kilowatt Hall thruster, essential for future Moon and deep-space missions, uses ionized xenon gas for efficient, low-thrust propulsion. The thruster will be a key component of Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element (Gateway being a proposed space station operating in lunar orbit), supporting the Artemis missions and preparations for human exploration of Mars.
A full-scale hot fire for Ariane 6
On November 23, the European Agency and its partners performed a full-scale rehearsal of its upcoming Ariane 6 rocket, which they did from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. With the successful test, Europe is steadily inching closer to the rocket’s inaugural launch, possibly in early 2024.
A NASA legend moves on to the final frontier
This photo of NASA astronaut Frank Borman was captured during preparations for the 1968 Apollo 8 mission. Borman passed away on November 7 at the age of 95. He led a memorable life, culminating in significant contributions to space exploration and aeronautics. As the commander of Apollo 8, Borman was integral to the mission’s historic achievements, including the first crewed orbit of the Moon. His legacy extends beyond his spaceflight career, influencing generations of astronauts and playing a vital role in advancing human space exploration.
Related slideshow: In Images: Remembering Legendary NASA Astronaut Frank Borman
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