NASA Continues To Rack Up “Firsts,” Including “Heat Shield Rock” Found On Mars




As many of you know, I love the NASA site and all things associated with space exploration.  In that vein, I had to share this photo of the first meteorite found on another planet.  I could come up with a better name than “Heat Shield Rock” (like Rocky McRock Face or something) but those NASA people are a bit literal.  There is a stark beauty of such objects, hardened and shaped by billions of years. I also still get a thrill of being able to see these pictures from another world.  While this picture was taken in 2015, there are some new pictures that are truly record breaking in terms of distance below.  These images should remind the public of the tremendous breakthroughs being made by NASA and its partners with limited funding, including significant cuts.  Indeed, as Trump pushes to make the International Space Station a private or corporate effort, we need to keep in mind the windfall of new information that has come with each of these programs.

I admit that when I saw the Heat Shield Rock recently, all I could think is “I want that.”  It is the size of a basketball and composed of iron and nickel.  It was the first of nine meteorites found on Mars and would likely be a tad above an academic salary.

I find meteorites endlessly fascinating, including what they tell us about our own geologic history. The idea of these objects traveling billions of years through the intense conditions of space is mind blowing.

oumuamua-860x430Along those lines, remember the tumbling cigar-shaped “Oumuamua” object that some people thought might be an alien craft?  It is clearly not only from another star system but the tumbling was likely started from a collusion in space and could continue for a billion more years in space.  This is equally mind blowing.

Speaking of other star systems, we have another first from NASA from the New Horizons program. You may recall the imagery made possible by the flyover of Pluto:

Most recently, NASA released the pictures below.  Using a “routine calibration frame of the ‘Wishing Well’ galactic open star cluster” with the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), this picture was captured from New Horizons when it was 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion kilometers, or 40.9 astronomical units) from Earth. I know it does not look like much but it is the farthest image ever made from Earth.



Horizon is now moving at more than 700,000 miles each day. It will continue to rack up these records and indeed two hours later it took images of two space rocks in the Kuiper Belt, an area home to hundreds of thousands of icy worlds and a trillion or more comets.

Ok, I am done with my nerd fest.


44 thoughts on “NASA Continues To Rack Up “Firsts,” Including “Heat Shield Rock” Found On Mars”

  1. Instead of writing “6.12 billion kilometers”, I wish people were more comfortable with SI and just write 6.12 terameters (abbreviated Tm). I can get that, but converting between miles, meters, and astronomical units is pointless. Stick to SI.

  2. It is surreal to see photos of the actual surface of other planets…to know that they exist in silence. Not a leaf, ant, or microbe exists anywhere, not a voice carries. There is a bit of an atmosphere on Mars, but it’s only CO2.

    It’s a completely different reality to think that one hit to an asteroid can send it tumbling for a billion years, because there is no gas in a vacuum to create any drag.

    We are lucky Oumuamua’s chaotic tumble didn’t come to a precipitous stop last October. It’s both exciting and chilling to think about all of the unstable bodies out there, asteroids and interstellar bodies, that are careening around out there, pushed and pulled by distant forces of gravity.

    1. Karen:
      I’ve always thought that the gravity centered theory of celestial movement is too rigid. I suspect there are many other forces in play, Blackbody forces being just one that comes to mind. I suspect the universe moves like a river with differing currents and flows beyond our comprehension here in the eddy known as the Milky Way.

  3. I understand that space rocks are cool and neat and all that, and I understand why JFK thought it was important for national security and morale to win the space race. I appreciate Tang and Velcro, two inventions with practical utility for those of us on Earth, but beyond that, I can’t conscience increasing the national debt to continue funding the international space station, view of the more urgent needs here on Earth.

    1. You’re a genius!

      Separation of church and state.

      Separation of “general Welfare” and the private charity industry, AKA individual welfare.

      Nowhere does the Constitution nationalize the charity industry.

      1. George misunderstands “general welfare”. There are many interpretations. The courts and Congress go with the current one.

  4. Since I was young visiting the NYC Museum of Natural Science, I’ve had a fantasy of a meteorite landing in my yard. The finding of this one on Mars is yet more proof that “we are already there”, we inclusive of our robots. There’s no need to send people to Mars, when we’re already there doing continuous exploration.

    1. “We” are NOT already there. Our stuff is already there.
      Ever go to a televised football game? Why go in person? You could be already there if you watched in TV.
      Ever see the TV magicians do their act? It would look A LOT different see the act in person.

  5. Do the denizens of Pluto enjoy “Affirmative Action Privilege”, generational welfare, forced busing, food stamps, one man-one vote democrazy, invasion-immigration, women’s suffrage and Plubamacare for the benefit of parasites; funded by forcibly confiscating the wealth of the competent and productive, non-hyphenate, actual Plutonians? From the video, it looks like all Plutonians enjoy complete freedom – infinite natural, God-given rights without a scintilla of intercession and control by despotic “government”. Alternatively, central planning, redistribution of wealth and social engineering on Pluto are so insidious as to be entirely imperceptible.

    1. Taxation for “…the common Defence…” as military R&D is constitutional. Space is the military “high ground” and exploration has a distinct and innate military application.

      Taxation for “general Welfare” is constitutional – roadways, water, sewer, utilities, post office, etc.

      General = all – Wel = well – Fare = get along

      Taxation for individual welfare is unconstitutional as the Founders deliberately omitted and, thereby, excluded the power of Congress to tax for individual welfare.

      Individual = single, separate, discrete, independent, sole, lone, solitary, isolated – of or for a particular person.

      Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1

      “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare,…”

        1. If ALL receive food stamps, it is “general Welfare”.

          ALL will never eat the same foods (i.e. government gruel).

          If INDIVIDUALS receive food stamps, it is individual welfare, the taxation by Congress for which is

          deliberately omitted and, thereby, excluded by the Constitution.

          ALL use roadways, currency, water, sewer, post office, etc., or “general Welfare”.

        2. ALL will consume government issued food as “general Welfare”?

          Government issued “general Welfare” food will consist of caviar, lobster and filet mignon?

          It would seem to me that food would be individual welfare best left to the individual.

  6. NASA has limited funding. Huh. We are deeply in debt. Go tax your grandma and pay for NASA. Vote for Rand Paul.

  7. Just hope it doesn’t turn out to have been found in Antarctica like where the “Moon” rocks were collected…except for the petrified piece of wood that was given to the Netherlands – that NASA said was a Moon rock.

  8. As your equivalent of a FB wall post is in my Android feed, I had to comment on how explicitly disappointing your post is. Post, because it contains neither anything space-related that is new nor anything informative. Like a 5th grade report, it basically says, “Scientists have a Martian rock that I nicknamed. There was a big meteor people thought were aliens. Byeee!”

    This type of blog should never be trending in my RSS feed with the REAL science news. Fix your method of writing, or add a page 2 to this that actually tells us something amazing about your title…

  9. Good use of visual aids. But the links provide more answers than Turley’s report. However, the links do not tell us what Visiting Professor Luna had to say about either Heat Shield Rock or Oumuamua. And neither did Turley.

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