content by

Alison Wilgus

Fiction and Excerpts [1]

Experience NASA Firsthand—Rocket Launch Included—In This New Comic

Our resident space blogger and graphic novelist Alison Wilgus got to visit NASA this year for a rocket launch and recently completed a full comic book about her experience!

Flip through and read about what it’s like to actually work at NASA, how Twitter works in space, and what it’s like to know that everything you do is pushing the human race forward bit by bit.

[A NASA comic by Alison Wilgus]

Ever Upward: The Case for Liquid Water on Mars

Since Mariner 9 entered Martian orbit in 1971, we’ve been gathering evidence of Mars’ wet history. Early on, satellite mapping revealed ancient land forms carved by water; more recently, data from the Phoenix Lander, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey and Mars Express have shown us conclusively that large amounts of water ice are locked away at the poles and under the Martian regolith, sometimes quite close to the surface. Because of the extremely low atmospheric pressure, the prospects of finding liquid water on modern-day Mars haven’t been good. But observations made by a team at the University of Arizona have sparked fresh hope that Mars might be wetter than we’d thought.

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Ever Upward: Martian Discoveries and the Logistics of Curiosity

In the alternate universe where I pursued a STEM-centric career instead of banging my head against the entertainment business, I would absolutely have been an engineer. I love the problem-solving physicality of it, and the struggle between what has to be accomplished and the constraints any solution must fit within; my fascination with aerospace is due in large part to my love of watching very smart people tinker their way through comically difficult problems. Whenever I hear that some new discovery has been made in the investigation of our solar system, my first reaction is to wonder, “Yes, but how?”

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Ever Upward: LADEE Captures the Primal Lunar Sky

As a long-time Space Nerd trying to manage her expectations, it’s easy for me to settle into a cocoon of pessimism when it comes to the prospect of boots on the surface of the moon and Mars. After all, no concrete plans for a crewed mission beyond low Earth orbit are in the pipeline—we’re still in the early stages of rebuilding our manned spaceflight infrastructure, and the maiden un-crewed flight of the new heavy-lift “Space Launch System” isn’t slated until 2017. And yet, quietly and with little fanfare, NASA is inching its way toward our return to the moon one tiny satellite at a time.

The latest of which is LADEE—the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer—set to launch between August and October of 2013. It’s a smallish, unassuming satellite, weighing only 383 kg and standing just under two meters tall. But it has more than its share of jobs to do in the 130 days between its arrival in lunar orbit and its scheduled crash landing on the moon’s surface.

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