How fast is the universe expanding? How much does matter clump up in our cosmic neighborhood? Different methods of answering these two questions—either by observing the early cosmos and extrapolating to present times, or by making direct observations of the nearby universe—are yielding consistently different answers.
The simplest explanation for these discrepancies is merely that our measurements are somehow erroneous, but researchers are increasingly entertaining another, more breathtaking possibility: These twin tensions—between expectation and observation, between the early and late universe—may reflect some deep flaw in the standard model of cosmology, which encapsulates our knowledge and assumptions about the universe.
Finding and fixing that flaw, then, could profoundly transform our understanding of the cosmos.
NASA’s upcoming SPHEREx mission will be able to scan the entire sky every six months and create a map of the cosmos unlike any before.
Scheduled to launch no later than April 2025, it will probe what happened within the first second after the big bang, how galaxies form and evolve, and the prevalence of molecules critical to the formation of life, like water, locked away as ice in our galaxy.
Achieving these goals will require cutting-edge technology, and NASA has this month approved final plans for all the observatory’s components.
By John Uri, NASA Johnson Space Center, February 21, 2022
In February 1962, the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union was in full swing. Both nations had developed spacecraft to send humans into space and selected a group of pilots to fly those spacecraft.
The Soviets leaped ahead by placing the first man, Yuri A. Gagarin, in space on April 12, 1961, on a one-orbit flight around the Earth aboard his Vostok spaceship. The United States responded with two suborbital piloted Mercury missions, launched atop Redstone rockets.
The Soviets next kept a cosmonaut in space for a full day. On February 20, 1962, astronaut John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth during the three-orbit Mercury-Atlas 6 mission, aboard the spacecraft he named Friendship 7.
NASA isn’t just interested in putting more women in space.
The agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has appointed Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Dr. Laurie Leshin as its first female director.
She’ll assume the role on May 16th, replacing former director Michael Watkins (who retired in August 2021) and interim director Lt. Gen Larry James. She’ll also serve as vice president of Caltech, which manages the JPL.
Leshin has extensive experience, both in science and in breaking new ground. She has held senior positions in NASA, including a key director role at the Goddard Space Flight Center. As deputy associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, she laid some of the groundwork for both commercial spaceflight and Artemis. She was Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s science dean, and has served as WPI’s first female president since 2014.