New Horizons explores 2014 MU69

2014 MU69NASA’s New Horizons space probe, operated by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab, passes within 2,200 miles of the mysterious Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, a tiny fragment of leftover material from the birth of the solar system. Previously seen only as a tiny pixel even by the powerful lens of the Hubble Space Telescope, nothing was known of 2014 MU69 prior to the flyby, which revealed it as a contact binary: two bodies which had become gravitationally fused together. As 2014 MU69 (informally nicknamed Ultima Thule in a public poll conducted by the New Horizons public outreach team) is a billion miles further away than Pluto, and with New Horizons continuing outward at 30,000 miles per hour, signals between Earth and New Horizons take at least six hours to reach their destination, so the downlink of data from the flyby would take until 2020 to complete.

Star Trek: Short Treks: The Escape Artist

Star Trek: Short TreksStreaming service CBS All Access debuts the fourth episode of Short Treks, a series of 15-20 minute short stories set in the Star Trek universe, with this story continuing the misadventures of interplanetary con man Harry Mudd (reintroduced in Star Trek: Discovery’s most recent season). Rainn Wilson (The Office) stars and directs.

More about Star Trek: Discovery and Short Treks in the LogBook

W. Morgan Sheppard, actor, dies

W. Morgan SheppardBritish-born actor William Morgan Sheppard, a genre casting favorite ever since his 1985 appearance as Blank Reg in the original Max Headroom TV movie (a role that permanently relocated him to the United States for the U.S. Max Headroom series), dies at the age of 86 in Los Angeles. With his wizened features (the result of a surgical procedure that cost him one of his eyes), classical stage training, and distinctive, vaguely-Irish-accented voice, Sheppard would go on to appear in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark, Quantum Leap, Star Trek VI, seaQuest DSV, Babylon 5 (a series in which he was a close runner-up for the role of G’Kar), Star Trek: Voyager, Doctor Who, and the 2009 Star Trek movie relaunch. He was the father of actor Mark Sheppard, a genre favorite in his own right, with whom he appeared in both Doctor Who and NCIS, playing older and younger versions of the same character. Prior to leaving the U.K., Sheppard had appeared in such series as The New Avengers, Hammer House Of Horror, and Day Of The Triffids.

More about W. Morgan Sheppard in the LogBook

Blue Origin NS-10

Blue Origin NS-10Commercial spaceflight operator Blue Origin, owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, launches its tenth New Shepard flight. The uncrewed (but human-rated) capsule includes several payloads designed by NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program. As with past missions, both the capsule and its single-stage suborbital booster come in for soft landings near Blue Origin’s Texas launch facility. This is the fourth flight for the third New Shepard reusable capsule, as well as the fourth flight for the third New Shepard reusable booster.

Beresheet launched

BeresheetThe Israeli-built Beresheet uncrewed experimental lunar lander is launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Originally intended as an entrant for the Google Lunar X Prize, Beresheet (and all the other hopefuls) missed the March 31, 2018 deadline, leaving the $20,000,000 Lunar X Prize unclaimed. Unlike past lunar missions, Beresheet is launched into a high Earth orbit, whose apogee (maximum distance from Earth) will be increased over a period of nearly two months with multiple burns of the vehicle’s main engine until it coincides with the orbital distance of the moon, at which time the engine will be fired again to place it in a lunar orbit prior to landing. The lander contains digital copies of numerous documents from Earth, reflecting the builders’ Jewish heritage as well as extensive databases of knowledge from sources such as Wikipedia. As the lander itself has not been built with protective shielding of any kind, its operational lifetime is expected to last only around two days on the lunar surface. If the mission succeeds, Israel will be the fourth nation (after the United States, Soviet-era Russia, and China) to land a spacecraft on the moon.

Luke Perry, actor, dies

Luke Perry as JeremiahActor Luke Perry, at the time a current regular on the CW’s Riverdale series and a former teen heartthrob from his years as one of the stars of Fox’s Beverly Hills 90210 throughout the 1990s, dies at the age of 52 several days after suffering from a major stroke. Among his many high-profile series roles were HBO’s acclaimed prison drama Oz, and the starring role in Jeremiah, Showtime’s early 21st century adaptation of a popular post-apocalyptic comic book, adapted by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski. He also had a minor part in the 1997 genre cult classic The Fifth Element, and was one of the stars of the 1992 movie Buffy The Vampire Slayer, upon which the later TV series was based. His first TV role – albeit uncredited – was in an episode of 1982’s short-lived time travel series Voyagers!.

More about Jeremiah in the LogBook

Beresheet attempts to land on the moon

BeresheetThe Israeli-built Beresheet uncrewed experimental lunar lander, during its attempt to land on the moon, loses engine power during descent and plummets toward the lunar surface. Though the main engine is believed to have restarted during that descent, the vehicle is too low to make a survivable landing and crashes on the moon. The Google Lunar X Prize committee awards $1,000,000 to SpaceIL, the Israeli space exploration organization founded specifically to launch the Beresheet mission, and the mission’s backers vow to use the prize to build a second Beresheet lander to attempt to complete the original vehicle’s mission.