An EF-3 tornado tore through east New Orleans, Louisiana on Tuesday February 7th. Widespread damage was found throughout the affected areas. There were also several injuries but thankfully there were no fatalities. I find that to be quite amazing based on footage that I saw of the tornado and the fact that it was impacting a major urban area. Weather forecasts generally nailed the possibility of such storms on that day and the advances within our meteorological community likely continue to save lives.
NASA is running out of space suits, and new ones are years away from being flight-ready. This was the finding of an audit released on 26 April by the NASA Office of Inspector General, relating to the agency's three next-generation spacesuit development projects. Future missions might send humans deeper into space than ever before, so new suits need to be designed to handle the challenging conditions. Recent efforts, which have not been linked to a specific mission or destination, have cost almost $200 million since 2007 but have yet to produce a suitable option for deep-space missions. The suits currently used during spacewalks from the International Space Station, called Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMU), were designed more than 40 years ago and were intended to last 15 years.
Before you head off into the great beyond, you first have to get out the door. Astronauts on the International Space Station have the benefit of perspective as they orbit Earth--a view so mind-blowingly awesome that it has been coined "the Overview Effect." We mere nonastronauts can imagine what it would be like seeing the curvature of our home planet while surrounded by the blackness of space, and a few sci-fi films make the effort, but we'll never really know how it feels until we get there. The European Space Agency's Alexander Gerst has just sent back a photo that shows not only how small in terms of scale we are, but how delicate our whole ecosystem is on this blue dot. OK, now off we go with NASA's spacecraft OSIRIS-REx on its mission to collect a sample of an asteroid called Bennu.
Space is a pretty big place. We live in a solar system around an average star in a pretty average spiral galaxy in a random region of the universe. While we may never be able to travel out of our solar system, much less the Milky Way, we are able to use powerful telescopes to study what's happening beyond our little corner in the cosmos. This week, we gaze at a galaxy cluster that glows in x-ray light, then at a globular cluster that contains hundreds of thousands of stars. Clusters like these are bound together by gravity and house some the universe's oldest stars.