Inspiration4 Launch Photo by Tanya Harrison

SpaceX launch: Four citizen astronauts blast off on three-day journey, and will orbit Earth every 90 minutes (SkyNews)

The first all-civilian crew ever to orbit the Earth have blasted off on their historic mission.

The Dragon capsule containing the four citizen astronauts was launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

One of those aboard the mission, billionaire entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, paid an undisclosed fee to SpaceX for the chance to fly with three others.

During its three-day journey the capsule will orbit the earth once every 90 minutes at a speed of more than 17,000mph and an altitude of 360 miles – even higher than the orbiting International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope.

See more: SpaceX launch: Four citizen astronauts blast off on three-day journey, and will orbit Earth every 90 minutes by Greg Milam

New Curiosity Rover Find Challenges a Fundamental Mars Theory (Inverse)

FOR MORE THAN NINE YEARS, A CAR-SIZED ROBOT has been roaming the Martian landscape in search of ancient life.

NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on Gale Crater on August 6, 2012, and has been exploring the presumably dried-lake ever since. But a fresh look at Curiosity’s old data revealed that the ancient basin may not have been as wet as scientists once believed, possibly altering the history of water on Mars and the probability of the Red Planet hosting life during its past…

Tanya Harrison, a planetary scientist and director of science strategy for Planet Labs, who was not involved in the study, says that the reason Gale Crater was designated as the Curiosity rover’s destination is that Mount Sharp appeared to straddle that boundary between warm, hot Mars and cold, dry Mars.

“The crater was probably filled with water — that water evaporated and left the bottom half of Mount Sharp behind, which eventually eroded to the point that it’s at today,” Harrison tells Inverse. “At some point later, these wind-blown deposits were laid on top of that. Because the top half of Mount Sharp is not carved by any channels or anything that we can see, that suggests that it never interacted with water.”

See more: New Curiosity Rover Find Challenges a Fundamental Mars Theory by Passant Rabie

Wally Funk Is Defying Gravity and 60 Years of Exclusion From Space (The New York Times)

From The New York Times:

Wally Funk is finally going to space. When on Tuesday she crosses that arbitrary altitude that divides the heavens from Earth below, in a rocket built by Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin, she’ll be 82, the oldest person ever to go into space. But that is not what makes her so special.

Ms. Funk is one of the few people who has directly participated in both eras of human spaceflight so far — the one that started as an urgent race between rival nations, and the one that we are now transitioning into, in which private companies and the billionaires who finance them are in fierce competition for customers, comeuppance and contracts. That she was ultimately excluded from the first phase because she is a woman, and will now be included in the next one, also highlights difficult questions of whom space is for.

See more: Wally Funk Is Defying Gravity and 60 Years of Exclusion From Space by Mary Robinette Kowal

‘We’re not invisible people’: Meet these 6 LGBTQ scientists who are changing the world (AccuWeather)

From AccuWeather:

In 1977, a physics student at Stanford University in California saw an ad in the school newspaper inviting women to apply to the astronaut program. She applied for the job and ended up becoming one of the six women hired. Six years later, Sally Ride found her name in the news as the first American woman to fly in space. Today, she is also the first-recognized LGBT+ astronaut and first-recognized LGBTQIA+ person in space.

While Ride and others had begun laying the groundwork for LGBT+ folks in STEM, many have voiced that inclusivity is still a work in progress for the field. Here are a few scientists who have continued forging a path for those who follow.

Read more: ‘We’re not invisible people’: Meet these 6 LGBTQ scientists who are changing the world by Adriana Navarro

Earth’s nearest orbit is crowded with satellites, but sending them farther has its own dangers (CTV)

From CTV:

TORONTO — As Earth’s closest orbit becomes overcrowded with satellites and space junk, companies are increasingly looking to the planet’s second-closest orbit for expansion – but it’s rife with danger.

Low Earth orbit (LEO), Earth’s closest orbit, is running out of room as tech companies, such as SpaceX, Amazon, and OneWeb, race to send up their own mega-constellations of communication satellites.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to eventually launch 42,000 Starlink satellites into space, Amazon hopes to send 3,236 satellites, and OneWeb has plans for approximately 650 of its own satellites.

“I’m sure a lot of people think of space as being this vast space, no pun intended, so how are we possibly going to run out of room when we have these tiny little satellites compared to the size of the universe?” Tanya Harrison, the director of strategy at Planet Labs, told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday.

“But the orbit altitudes that are actually useful for us here on the ground are quite limited.”

This is where medium Earth orbit (MEO) comes in.

Read more: Earth’s nearest orbit is crowded with satellites, but sending them farther has its own dangers by Jackie Dunham

Newly Discovered Glaciers on Mars May Help Humans Settle on the Red Planet One Day (CBC)

From CBC:

If humans are to truly become interplanetary settlers, we’re going to need to have access to water — a lot of it. But loading it on a rocket would be heavy, and trying to escape Earth’s gravity with all that weight would be costly.

That’s why space agencies such as NASA and the European Space Agency, as well as planetary geologists, have been looking for sources of water on Mars.

Now, a new paper published in the journal Icarus suggests there is a unique subsurface ice feature in a location that would be optimal for future explorers of the Red Planet.

Read more: Newly discovered glaciers on Mars may help humans settle on the Red Planet one day by Nicole Mortillaro

Mushrooms on Mars: A “Modern Day Galileo” Fights to Prove Alien Life Exists (Inverse)

From Inverse:

DEBARATI DAS KNOWS HOW HARD IT IS TO FIND MUSHROOMS ON EARTH, LET ALONE ON ANOTHER PLANET.

So when Das, Mars scientist, Curiosity rover team member, and keen mushroom forager —heard that a team of researchers claim there are mushrooms on Mars, she was skeptical, to say the least.

Here’s the claim: In a new paper, the team use images captured by NASA’s Opportunity rover to show what they say are fungi on Mars — clear evidence of life on another planet. Somewhat incredibly, this paper has been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

The paper is the latest in a series by Rhawn Joseph, a self-proclaimed neuroscientist who strongly believes that the proof for life on Mars is right in front of our eyes, despite most other members of the scientific community strongly disagreeing with him.

“Our team is advancing science, but those who oppose us are anti-science,” Joseph tells Inverse.

Das is firmly among the critics. While by day she is a graduate student at McGill University and a member of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory team, her foraging hobby gives her a pretty good idea of what it takes to make the right environment for a mushroom. For mushrooms to grow, she tells Inverse, they need to be a very specific temperature, rainfall, and humidity. Mars, for its part, has no rain, and no humidity.

“It’s quite complicated to find mushrooms even on Earth, so let alone on a planet that long ago lost its atmospheric water,” Das tells Inverse. “I don’t think the mushrooms would like that.”

Which begs the question: Why is a peer-reviewed journal apparently going to publish such spurious claims?

Read more: Mushrooms on Mars: A “Modern Day Galileo” Fights to Prove Alien Life Exists by Passant Rabbie

6 AS Warrior Tips for Living Your Best Life (Health Central)

From Health Central:

IF YOU’RE STRUGGLING to come to grips with a chronic diagnosis, think about Mars—yes, the Red Planet—or something else that you’re truly passionate about. That’s the advice Tanya Harrison, 35, from Washington, DC, who calls herself a “professional Martian,” offers for anyone with a chronic disease. Harrison, who was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) at age 14, is now a geoscientist at Planet Labs and has worked in mission ops for three NASA Mars missions.

“Find something that you love and are passionate about to act as a distraction and/or a motivator,” says Harrison. “For me, that thing was Mars and space. Going after my goals has pushed me through the pain and frustration of dealing with AS, and I want others to find the thing that does that for them.”

From finding your passion to taking a closer look at your chair, the best advice comes from people who have been there, done that. Meet Harrison (and two other people with AS) who get real about what makes their lives easier.

Read more: 6 AS Warrior Tips for Living Your Best Life by Elizabeth Dougherty

Living in the Dawn of a Golden Era of Space Exploration (Viva Technology)

From Viva Technology:

There is a lot of traffic around Mars these days. The United States, China, the European Space Agency (ESA), India and the United Arab Emirates all currently have probes orbiting the red planet. And while the United States is currently the only one with rovers operating on the surface (and, as of last week, the first interplanetary helicopter, Ingenuity), China plans to land its own vehicle sometime next month.

The multiple missions are part of a new golden era of space exploration. Unlike the first one, which captured the imagination of a generation in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and played out against the backdrop of the Cold War competition between the United State and the Soviet Union, the current space race is not confined to national space agencies with deep pockets. 

Indeed, much of the activity, at least in near- and low-earth orbit, is now being driven by commercial and private enterprises like SpaceX, the company started by Elon Musk. Experts agree that it is the involvement of these new players, which are finding new, cost-efficient ways to use technology, that is behind the renaissance in space exploration and that is rapidly turning what a few years ago was science fiction into science possible and science fact.

Read more: Living in the Dawn of a Golden Era of Space Exploration by Dylan Loeb McClain

Women Who Lead | Meet Professional Martian, Dr. Tanya (Spaced Out Doc)

From Spaced Out Doc:

As I round out an incredible month of highlighting the powerful stories of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and professions in the greater space community for women’s history month, the Spaced Out Doc forum is dedicated to celebrating women advancement all year long. Women and their allies are standing united across our Earth choosing to call out gender bias, choosing to dismantle inequality, and choosing to celebrate women empowerment objectives in everything we do. I am so inspired by the brilliant women I know in the space industry, and I am excited to share their unique and powerful stories. With that, I am proud to introduce, Dr. Tanya Harrison.

Read more: Women Who Lead by Dr. Michaelyn Thomas