2017 is over and boy was it a busy and exciting year of space discoveries and spaceflight! So it’s officially time for the best space moments of 2017, AKA the WORLD FAMOUS ASTRO AWARDS!!!!!
This is nothing official, other than things I thought were awesome from 2017, but I also took into account your opinions from polls here on YouTube AND on twitter, so make sure you’re paying attention to those to have a voice in next year’s Astro Awards!
Without further adieu, may I present to you the 2017 Astro Awards!
Hello!! Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the first annual Astro Awards, the ultimate honor in space awards. Each year we pick our favorite space moments and award the winner the much coveted LEO trophy.
This year we have 7 finalists all hoping to take home this marvelous trophy. We’ve got a long night ahead of us so let’s jump in with our finalists.
Before we get into the countdown, we do have an honorable mention. Falcon Heavy! I want to celebrate the fact that we finally got to see Falcon Heavy on the launch pad at the end of 2017 as it prepares for its inaugural flight in 2018! Since it hasn’t flown yet, it didn’t get a place on our 2017 list, but I’ll bet it’s flight will be hard to beat for 2018!
I did a video all about why exactly it took 5 years for Falcon Heavy to come online and gave you a deep rundown on its history and what we can expect to see. Be sure and check that out!
So cheers SpaceX, and good luck with Falcon Heavy, if all goes well hopefully we’ll see you back here next year!
So starting with number 7 on my list, I’m going with the first launch from historic launch pad 39A since 2011 after the last space shuttle took off. 39A is also where all humans that went to the moon took off from.
SpaceX leased pad 39A on April 14th, 2014, a day i’ll always remember because I was there! And yes, I even got a selfie with SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell. SpaceX spent almost 3 years outfitting 39A with everything necessary to launch both their Falcon 9 rocket, and their upcoming Falcon Heavy rocket.
The mission that inaugurated the new launchpad was CRS-10, a commercial resupply mission for NASA to send cargo to the International Space Station. It took off on February 19th, 2017 at 9:39 a.m. local time.
This mission was cool for a few reasons, not only was it the first time SpaceX launched from this hallowed ground, it was also the first time we saw a rocket land back at the launch site in broad daylight which was just amazing.
The completely successful mission was a good sign of things to come for SpaceX as it was the return to flight of their Falcon 9 rocket after the Amos 6 anomaly destroyed their other launch pad, LC-40 on September 1st, 2016.
SpaceX continued to have an outstanding year, launching a record breaking 18 flawless missions, including a perfect landing record with 14 successful landings out of 14 attempts with their Falcon 9 rocket.
My next favorite moment was when India managed to launch 104 satellites into orbit on a single launch!
On February 15, 2017, India launched their Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle or PSLV for mission C37 which successfully carried 104 satellites into sun-synchronous orbit. The 714 kg (1,574 pound) primary satellite known as Cartosat-2D was successfully deployed followed by 103 nanosatellites weighing in at around 6 KGs each.
The reason why I find this launch so significant is the fact that India was able to successfully perform such a flawless mission and at an incredibly low cost of only 15 million USD! That’s incredible. Great job India, can’t wait to see more from you!
Next up we have a truly exciting observation… the first confirmed observation of a known interstellar object passing through our solar system.
In October 2017, Robert Weryk discovered 1i/2017 u1 using the Pan-STARRS telescope at the Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii. At first this long cigar shaped object was thought to be a comet, and then an asteroid. After further observation it’s trajectory and speed made scientists conclude that it originated from outside our solar system!
It’s relatively small, only about 230 x 35 meters or 800 by 100 feet in size. After its initial discovery, scientists trained several telescopes on it including Keck II telescope and even Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes joined in the fun!
1i/2017 u1 was later named Oumuamua which is Hawaiian for “first scout” as a nod to our first confirmed encounter with an object from outside of our own solar system!
For my number 4 we have another exciting observation. On August 17, 2017, scientists made the first ever observations of both light and gravitational waves from a single cosmic event. This was one of the most exciting cosmic events known as a kilonova and only happens when two neutron stars collide.
Neutron stars are the leftover dense cores from supernovas. Two neutron stars colliding is thought to be rare and despite this, it was observed through gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory or LIGO in the US, the Virgo interferometer in Italy and visible light from dozens of observatories.
Unlike merging black holes which also produce detectable gravitational waves, merging neutron stars produce visible light, xrays and gamma rays so we were able to collect a lot more data using several different instruments.
This observation is unprecedented not only for confirming a kilonova but for having so many solid observations of it. The fact that the observed data perfectly matched the theories about what would happen when two neutron stars collided confirms a lot for scientists.
Best of all, this confirmed that neutron stars collisions create the heavy elements like gold and platinum! It’s fantastic when direct observations confirm a hypothesis. So congrats to those who helped observe this incredible spectacle!
The next three I really had a hard time deciding between, but just hear me out! Number three goes to the solar eclipse of 2017. Wow was that an incredible experience!
On August 21, 2017, millions of people across the entire continental United States had the opportunity to see a total solar eclipse, including me!
The path of totality, when the moon totally blocks out the sun, took a tour across the United States. It started at 10:19 am Pacific time in Madras Oregon and made its way east until the last bit of totality was seen at 2:46 PM eastern in Georgetown, South Carolina.
It was truly a magical experience. I think the only way I can describe it is it felt like it united everyone together to all celebrate in something much bigger than us. Everyone from every walk of life put their differences aside and all wound up cheering up into the sky as it went dark. This cosmic coincidence was incredible and I think I’m now addicted to total solar eclipses…
This experience made me wonder what an eclipse would look like from space, so I found out the answer and made this video, check it out if you’re interested.
Thanks for the fun times sun and the moon, hopefully I’ll get a chance to see you two dance again in 2019 in South America!
For our semi finalists we need to take a moment and reflect on the loss of a very dear friend of ours. This year after 20 years in space, the Cassini spacecraft took its final breaths into the atmosphere of Saturn.
After a successful liftoff on October 15, 1997 onboard a Titan IVB rocket, the Cassini probe flew off with its brother Huygens to explore the Saturn system. It took 7 years to get to Saturn, but Cassini went to work right away. It’s prime mission lasted four years and was so successful it got extended twice.
Cassini was a flagship NASA mission that brought Saturn into much more detail than ever before. The plucky spacecraft detailed maps of Saturn’s gravity and magnetic fields, observed Saturn’s rings up close and personal, sampled icy ring particles and collected over 635 GB’s of valuable data.
In total Cassini executed 2.5 million commands, orbited Saturn 294 times, flew by Saturn’s moons 162 times, and took 453,048 photos. It even discovered two oceans, one on Titan and the other on Enceladus. Through its life 3,948 scientific papers were published from its findings.
Cassini represents everything we love about flagship NASA missions, plan for four years of data, get back 13 jam packed years of fruitful data.
With Cassini on its last puffs of propellant, NASA didn’t want to risk having it accidentally collide into a potentially life harboring moon. So in April 2017, the wonder-probe performed a final flyby of Titan which placed it on a collision course with Saturn that unfolded over five months of daring dives between Saturn and its rings. It plummeted into Saturn’s thick atmosphere so it would burn up on entry.
On September 15th, 2017, at 7:55:46 AM eastern daylight time, we heard the last signal from our beloved Cassini.
Cassini, you will be forever missed and your data will be treasured for generations to come. Congrats to the thousands of people who were involved with making Cassini such a massively successful mission!
And now ladies and gentlemen, our favorite moment in space this year… (drumroll). SPACEX and the first reflight of an orbital class booster!
Woah woah woah you say! HOLD THE PRESSES. Am I really suggesting that a Falcon 9 rocket delivering a pretty standard communications satellite is really more important than a flagship 20 year long flawless NASA mission that gave us data to comb over for decades to come?!?!
Well, before I get into a rant about it, let me catch you up to snuff on why SpaceX’s reflight of a booster is actually a really big deal.
On March 30th, 2017, SpaceX launched a 5,200 KG satellite for their customer, SES. This launched from launch pad 39A in Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission was pretty run of the mill, everything went perfectly fine and SpaceX even managed to recover the booster.
So why was this such a big deal? For this mission, SES-10, it was the second time SpaceX reused this exact first stage booster, also known as core 21.
Previously it launched a Dragon cargo capsule containing the Bigelow BEAM module and other supplies to the ISS on the CRS-8 mission for NASA on April 16th, 2016. It reached 6,660 km/hr (3,700 mph) before it separated from the upper stage and then proceeded to land downrange on the autonomous droneship named Of Course I still Love.
For the SES-10 mission, it reached an even faster 8,200 km/h (5.095 mph) before separating from the upper stage and once again landing downrange on the drone ship. Ahhhh it was so perfect!!!
I’ve already done an embarrassingly old and bad video explaining why reusing a booster is a big deal, but let me just drill it in here now.
Getting things into space is expensive. Rockets are incredibly engineered, made from the most high tech and precise parts. Yet tragically, after only 2 to 3 minutes of use, the biggest portion of a rocket has traditionally been discarded. It falls back to earth only to become a future coral reef.
So when SpaceX began to pursue recovering and reusing the first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket, it was simply thought to be impossible. Most people in the industry laughed at the idea, literally. It had been the consensus among the industry was that recovering a booster was too hard, if not, impossible…
So you can imagine how game changing it was when SpaceX not only started recovering booster after booster, but then when they successfully reflew one, the game had officially changed.
You might get sick of hearing this, but it’s true. Imagine how expensive a standard airline ticket would be if they had to throw away the entire jumbo jet after every flight!
SpaceX already has the cheapest launch costs in the industry by streamlining manufacturing and making almost every bit of the vehicle in house. By reusing these multi million dollar pieces of hardware, the cost of getting things to space will start to plummet.
In the near future, customers launching payloads into space won’t have to buy an entire rocket, they’ll just have to buy a ride. They’ll essentially just be renting a booster for much cheaper than the cost of a brand new one. This will revolutionize the space industry. The access to space is still insanely cost prohibitive, but what if the cost comes down 10 times? 20 times? 100 times!??!
Bringing the cost of space down is the first step to making exploration more routine and attainable. So when the cost of putting a new satellite, a new scientific probe or even astronauts is almost an afterthought, imagine how much more activity will take place among the stars!
As you know from the previous segment, Cassini was phenomenal. It was absolutely incredible and I love everything it did for us. BUT, it’d really be sad if the best space moment of 2017 was the DEATH of a beloved space probe, wouldn’t it be?
So I chose to look forward to the future. A future where putting Cassini class probes happens often because we can more easily afford to do it. When more people than ever before are heading into space to work and visit. When the general public is so enamored by all the brilliant scientific discoveries, we all want to invest as a society into exploring deeper into our own solar system than ever before.
To me, bringing the cost of space down is the ultimate paradigm shift that will open up an entirely new economy. It will bring usher in the future we’ve all been dreaming about and inspire new generations of explorers.
It will lead the way for Humankind to step beyond our blue sphere, return to the Glory days of Apollo and go beyond to Mars, further on to the Gas giants where the moons hold vast resources that we can then use to venture to interstellar space and go beyond our solar system. For this reason, generations to come will see 2017 as another turning point in space exploration.
A new Apollo era is upon us. Reusable rockets are here. It’s time to go forward and explore.
So, what do you think about the first ever Astro Awards? What mission or event did I forget about that you can’t believe I left out? What events are you looking forward to in 2018?
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Thanks everybody that does it for me. I’m Tim Dodd, the Everyday Astronaut. Bringing space down to Earth for everyday people.