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Astronaut Training Kennedy Space Center grumpy traveller astronaut training experience cape Training Astronaut Space Kennedy Center

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Astronaut Training Kennedy Space Center

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The GRAIL mission was managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The mission was part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.



Makemake, like Pluto, shows a red hue in the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The near-infrared spectrum is marked by the existence of the broad methane absorption bands--and methane has also been observed on Pluto. Spectral analysis of Makemake's surface shows that its methane must be present in the form of large grains that are at least one centimeter in size. In addition to methane, there appears to be large quantities of ethane and tholins as well as smaller quantities of ethylene, acetylene, and high-mass alkanes (like propane)--most likely formed as a result of the photolysis of methane by solar radiation. The tholins are thought to be the source of the red color of the visible spectrum. Even though there is some evidence for the existence of nitrogen ice on Makemake's frozen surface, at least combined with other ices, it is probably not close to the same abundance of nitrogen seen on Pluto and on Triton. Triton is a large moon of the planet Neptune that sports a retrograde orbit indicating that it is a captured object. Many astronomers think that Triton is a wandering refugee from the Kuiper Belt that was captured by the gravity of its large, gaseous planet. It is possible that eventually the doomed Triton will plunge into the immense, deep blue world that it has circled for so long as an adopted member of its family. Nitrogen accounts for more than 98 percent of the crust of both Pluto and Triton. The relative lack of nitrogen ice on Makemake hints that its supply of nitrogen has somehow been depleted over the age of our Solar System.



The Solar System forms a tiny part of the Milky Way Galaxy, a vast conglomeration of stars and planets. What makes astronomy so thrilling is that despite its size, the Milky Way is not the only galaxy in the universe. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies out there, probably more. The closest galaxy to our own Milky Way is Andromeda. Now, brace yourself for the distance: it is 2.3 million light years away. One of the most exciting phenomena for astronomers is the black hole. It is an area of the universe where the concentration of mass is so massive (no pun intended) that the gravitational pull it generates sucks in everything around it. Everything includes light. Remember that the escape velocity for any object in the universe is the speed required to escape the objects gravitational pull. The escape velocity for the Earth is slightly over 11 kilometers per hour while for the Moon is 2.5 kilometers per second. Well for a black hole, the escape velocity exceeds the speed of light. That is how strong the pull is.