Insight on InSight

Some seven months ago, a NASA spacecraft called InSight was launched atop an Atlas 5 rocket and headed to Mars (Figure 1). If all goes well, the spacecraft will land on the Martian surface at around 8pm UK time this Monday 26th November and begin its science investigation. InSight is a fixed lander (see Figure 2 below), a much simpler affair than the Curiosity rover that arrived in 2012 and continues its trek across the floor of Gale crater to this day. Mobility, is however, not required for the specific aim of the mission. 

110 Years Since The Tunguska Event 

During the summer every year, we observe the International Asteroid Day (“Asteroid Day” for short) on 30th June. The United Nations has proclaimed it will be observed globally on that date “to raise awareness about asteroids and what can be done to protect the Earth, its families, communities, and future generations from a catastrophic event.” 

While their topics certainly have some overlap, the date for the Asteroid Day was not chosen in acknowledgment of the film Armageddon (which was released on 1st July 1998), but to commemorate a much more real and to this day somewhat mysterious occurrence: the Tunguska event (which would also make a good movie title!). This summer marks the 110th anniversary of what is believed to be the largest impact event on Earth in recorded history. 

Sir Patrick Moore and the First Man on the Moon – 49 years on

July 20 1969 saw, arguably, the most famous event in all of human history when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the Moon and left his footprints there – a mark still indelibly framed in the lunar dust today, some 49 years later.  It may seem almost as incredible that it is indeed nearly half a century ago that this epochal event occurred, one that united all of humanity for a short while, as we stared at that yellow orb in our night skies to know that one of our species was walking on it surface.