Outer space—often the symbol of the unknowable or the impossible to reach—has never felt closer. After seemingly laying dormant for several decades, the public imagination of the cosmos has been reignited thanks to an array of parallel discoveries, initiatives, and enterprises that have all taken place within the last year alone.
Last April, members of the Event Horizon Telescope project revealed the very first image of a black hole. At a whopping 53.5 million light-years away, the single blurry image of galaxy M87’s center represented a feat inconceivable by previous generations of scientists. More recently, another black hole was discovered a mere thousand light years away, aptly named Telescopium. “On the scale of the Milky Way, it’s in our backyard,” European Southern Observatory astronomer Thomas Rivinius said of the phenomenon. “Almost on our doorstep.”
Meanwhile, veteran NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley recently embarked upon SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, representing the company’s first collaboration with NASA as well as its inaugural piloted space flight. Not to be outdone, the Jeff Bezos-owned company Blue Origin finished construction of its high-rate engine production facility in preparation of its first flight date in 2021.
Even the United States government has newly discovered itself in the interplanetary. The Space Force (USSF) is now the sixth and youngest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, enacted in December 2019 to “protect U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities to the joint force.” Four months later, the U.S. Department of Defense released three official videos of unidentified flying objects taken by Navy pilots, officially described as “intelligently-controlled airborne objects not apparently made by humans.”
Early Bird Registration deadline is this Thursday, June 4. The final deadline is on August 6.
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