Space Sunday: Artemis and JWST updates, solar power from space

A view of Earth taken by a solar array mounted camera on the Orion spacecraft on November 24th, a day before the spacecraft entered a distant retrograde orbit around the moon. Credit: NASA

NASA’s Artemis 1 mission, launched on November 16th, 2022, has become the first vehicle capable of carrying humans that far, to return to the vicinity of the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1972.

The Orion capsule reached the Moon on Monday, November 20th, the fifth flight day of the mission overall. At 12:44 UTC, the vehicle, swinging around the far side of the Moon and so out of communications with Earth, closed to within 130 km of the lunar surface and a velocity of 862 km/h. It then fired the single motor mounted on the vehicle’s service module for 2.5 minutes, the first engine burn designed to push the vehicle into a distant retrograde orbit (DRO).

The DRO is a path that loops the vehicle away from the Moon in the opposite direction to the Moon’s own orbit around the Earth. Confirmation of the manoeuvre’s success came as the vehicle cleared the Moon and resumed communications with Earth – returning a colour image of our home in the process.

The DRO provides a highly stable orbit where little fuel is required to stay for an extended trip in deep space to put Orion’s systems to the test in an extreme environment far from Earth.

– NASA blog post

A portion of the far side of the moon as seen from the Orion spacecraft on November 21st, 2022 during the Artemis 1 mission. Credit: NASA

An hour later, as the vehicle proceeded away from the Moon, it passed over a historic landmark – Tranquillity Base, the landing zone for Apollo 11 in 1969 at a distance of 2,227 km.  It continued outwards from the Moon with all systems functioning as expected. However, on Wednesday, November 23rd, all contact with the vehicle was suddenly lost and remained so for 47 minutes prior to contact being re-established.

The cause of loss-of-contact lay with the reconfiguring of the communications link between the spacecraft and NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) – the orbiting and ground-based communications network used to maintain contact with all of NASA’s operational missions. The reconfiguration should have been routine, having been carried out several times during the mission as DSN carried out its multiple duties, and at the time of writing it was not clear what caused the glitch.

looking back at Earth from beyond the Moon, November 2st, 2022. Credit: NASA

At 21:52 GMT on Friday, November 25th, Orion made its second DRO engine burn, one that lasted 82 seconds, sufficient to push the vehicle into its outward loop away from the Moon travelling at 396 km/h. This outbound leg of the flight saw Artemis 1 breaking the record for the for the farthest distance from Earth travelled by a human-rated spacecraft, surpassing the 432,000 km distance set by Apollo 13 in April 1971; Artemis will reach a maximum distance from Earth of 435,000 km on Monday, November 28th, the point marking the start of its return to close proximity to the Moon, which it will reach on December 1st.

The mission has not all been smooth sailing, however. As noted in my previous Space Sunday update, the launch facilities at Kennedy Space Centre suffered damage during the Artemis 1 launch, although at the time of that article, NASA had not confirmed how much damage had occurred on the mobile launch platform.

Immediately following the launch, NASA asked the media not to image or record the launch platform and tower, citing security issues and ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulation), sparking speculation (particularly among SpaceX fans) that the Space Launch System rocket have caused considerable damage to its launch facilities and was therefore somehow a “failure”.

The elevator stations at the base of the mobile launch tower used in the launch of Artemis 1, showing the extent of the damage with the protective blast doors entirely blown-in. Credit: NASA

Since then, however, NASA has completed an initial damage assessment exercise and has been more forthcoming. Whilst a more in-depth assessment is required on the internals of the launch tower structure, the initial assessment suggests the launch platform overall faired a lot better than expected, given the huge strain it was under (SLS generates more thrust and heat than either the space shuttle vehicles or the Apollo Saturn V at launch).

Continue reading “Space Sunday: Artemis and JWST updates, solar power from space”

Starborn Gallery in Second Life

Starborn Gallery

Lizbeth Morningstar is relative newcomer to Second Life, but is making her mark as both a photographer-artist and – as from November 26th, 2022 – a gallery owner and curator, with her Starborn Gallery.

Located on the southern coast of Geata V and with a beachfront setting offering space to host exhibition opening events, the gallery utilises its own shared environment for ambient lighting, and it is recommended visitors set their viewers to Used Shared Environment (World → Environment) so that it is used when viewing the art on display. The building itself – designed and built by Lizbeth – presents two display wings, one of which features selections of Lizbeth’s own work, and the other to guest artists who will be displaying at the gallery on a rotational basis. For the Gallery’s opening, Pedro (PedroGlande) is the guest artist.

Starborn Gallery, November 2022 – Lizbeth Morningstar
SL is such amazing world for photography inspiration. I Love Photography; for me, it is the Fusion of mind and scenery. I take photos to express my feelings. My photos vibes varied by flowing mood. Self-Healing is the theme of this exhibition.
Taking photos in SL is my Self-Healing, Self-Meditation process. You may find a sense of purification or calm in these photos. I want to breathe fresh air and embrace sunshine in both RL and SL. Let’s take a soothing step to recall the light of our lives.

– Lizbeth Morningstar

Despite her relatively recent arrival in Second Life, Lizbeth has fairly immersed herself in the world of Second Life art and photography, developing an approach and style that is both eye-catching and somewhat unique. Many of her images are semi avatar-centric, in that her own avatar is featured within her pictures;  however, they are not avatar studies in the traditional sense of that term. Instead, they are what might be called “life studies” in which her avatar (or one of her pets!) is seemingly caught in a natural moment so that while our eyes are drawn to both avatar and / or pet, it is the setting as a whole that gives the image both context and sense of spontaneity that counters the fact it has been posed and post-processed.

Starborn Gallery, November 2022 – Lizbeth Morningstar

In many of her images, Lizbeth opts for a combination soft focus and depth of field to bring her avatar to the fore, with her colour palette tending towards softer tones. This gives many of her pieces a slightly dream-like effect, helping her work to be instantly recognisable.

In the second wing, Pedro presents Transmute, a collection of images which also feature his avatar.  However, rather than being individual narrative pieces, the images in Transmute are offered under an over-arching theme: our relationship with (and perhaps, the discovery of) our relationship with nature and natural things.

Starborn Gallery, November 2022 – Pedro PedroGlande

Within these images, we find Pedro within natural woodland settings, exploring, relaxing, and exulting in the natural cast of tress, woodlands and tall grass. These are pieces that use angle, focus and post-processing to enormous effect to present single-frame, tightly focused narratives, each beautifully tied to the core theme; a theme also framed by the lyrics from Pendular by the Brazilian indie rock group Scalene.

The one exception to all this can be found at the rear of the hall’s lower floor. It takes the form of a small photo studio complete with a chair for posing and three greyscale self-portraits of Pedro in various poses on the chair. The images are engaging, their greyscale tones providing a level of natural reality in a manner which colour renders would require much more intrusive post-processing to achieve. I’ll be honest, I had hoped the chair within the little studio would offer a series of poses so that visitors might try their own hand in capturing themselves whilst seated / standing on it and thus experiment with their own artistic expressionism, but alas, the chair had (at the time of my visit) just the one pose.

Starborn Gallery, November 2022 – Pedro PedroGlande

It is always pleasing to see new artists and new galleries appear in Second Life, and I certainly look forward to witnessing further exhibitions at Starborn and in witnessing Lizbeth’s evolving journey as a Second Life photographer-artist. And now that I’ve been properly introduce to Pedro’s work, I hope all be able to witness more exhibitions where he is a focused artist.

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