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SMC Planetarium Explores Latest in Space Flight

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By Lookout Staff

May 20, 2022 -- Privately booked missions and how NASA tracks it spacecraft around the solar system are among the topics Santa Monica College’s (SMC) John Drescher Planetarium will focus on next month.

The free, live virtual shows take place Fridays at 8 p.m. and are preceded by a streamlined, virtual digest of the popular Night Sky Show at 7 p.m. that offers the latest news in astronomy and space exploration.

SpaceX Crew Dragon
SpaceX Crew Dragon

The series kicks off June 3, "NASA's Eyes" a solar system survey presented by Associate Lecturer Sarah Vincent that explores the space agency's website powered by the Deep Space Network.

The website provided "a real-time look at major missions around the solar system with separate networks to see spacecraft, collect the science and guide them in the darkness and to run them all, event organizers said.

On June 10, Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon will offer an update on the "dynamic landscape" of commercial human spaceflight that is ushering a new era.

The show will look at how NASA is "soliciting studies for commercial successors to the International Space Station, and privately booked missions (are) already flying on vehicles like the SpaceX Crew Dragon."

On Friday, June 17, Mahon will focus on the Astrobotics Peregrine 1, the first of the lunar probes being flown under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.

"With plans for a midyear launch to the lunar surface on the inaugural flight of the new Vulcan booster, the CLPS flights are designed to prepare for human lunar return under NASA’s Artemis program," event organizers said.

The shows wrap up on June 24 with "Starship Status," a look at SpaceX’s "big Starship system (that) aims to be a general-purpose launch vehicle and solar system exploration ship."

Mahon will explore SpaceX’s "quick and dramatic development history mixing crashing prototypes with spectacular test flight successes.

"Starship is critical to the NASA Artemis program’s human lunar landing plans, with a lunar version of Starship slated to carry the first crew to the surface as early as Artemis 3 in 2025-2026," organizers said.

Currently, the planetarium is using the Zoom platform. To attend the shows, the Zoom software version 5.0 or higher must be installed on the viewer’s computer. A free download is available at

"The shows include the chance to chat with the planetarium lecturers and ask questions related to astronomy and space exploration," planetarium officials said.

More information is available online at or by calling 310-434-3005. Shows are subject to change or cancellation without notice.

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