Daniel R, Junior

WHERE THE UNIVERSE MEETS THE CAMERA

Tag Archives: NASA

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Watching Yutu’s Lunar Lander From Orbit

Image

China’s moon rover Yutu (“Jade Rabbit”) rolls down a ramp on the Chang’e 3 lander after touching down on the moon’s Bay of Rainbows on Dec. 14, 2013.
Credit: CNTV

A sharp-eyed NASA spacecraft is keeping tabs on China’s recently arrived lunar lander, all in the name of science.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, has added China’s Chang’e 3 lander and associated rover — which touched down on the moon on Saturday (Dec. 14) — to its list of observation targets.

“Repeated imaging of the landing site by LROC [the LRO Camera] will allow for detailed measurements of changes to the surface caused by the landing and movement of the Chang’e 3 rover,” NASA officials wrote in a statement on Friday (Dec. 13).

 

“LROC can image the surface to identify changes caused by Chang’e 3’s descent engine, similar to what has been observed from previous lunar landers,” they added. “The resulting atmospheric and surface changes will provide LRO with a new scientific opportunity to observe the transport of gases on the moon and the effects of local disturbances on the lunar regolith.”

Three other NASA moon probes also were slated to observe the Dec. 14 landing for scientific purposes. The agency’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), for example, kept an eye out for changes to the wispy lunar atmosphere caused by Chang’e 3’s touchdown, officials said.

And the two spacecraft making up NASA’s ARTEMIS mission (short for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of Moon’s Interaction with the Sun) did their part as well.

“The first ARTEMIS spacecraft (P1) will pass within 124 miles (200 km) of the lunar surface on December 14,” NASA officials wrote in the Dec. 13 statement. “According to current plans, the spacecraft will look for any plume signatures in the plasma or magnetic field associated with Chang’e 3’s landing. The second spacecraft (P2) will observe pristine solar wind plasma and magnetic field conditions. This information is needed to determine how dust is lofted from the lunar surface.”

The Chang’e 3 success marked China’s first-ever landing on the moon, and the first soft touchdown on the lunar surface since the former Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976. NASA’s last soft lunar landing came in 1972, on the Apollo 17 mission.

The Chang’e 3 mission carries a lander and a rover called Yutu, whose name means “Jade Rabbit.” (Yutu is a pet of the goddess Chang’e and travels with her to the moon in Chinese legends.) Both robots will conduct science observations on the lunar surface.

The $504 million LRO spacecraft launched in June 2009. It’s about the size of a Mini Cooper car and carries seven different science instruments, which it uses to observe the moon from an altitude of 31 miles (50 km).

Heat Shield for NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Arrives at Kennedy Space Center

NASA’s Orion spacecraft is just about ready to turn up the heat. The spacecraft’s heat shield arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida Wednesday night aboard the agency’s Super Guppy aircraft.

The heat shield, the largest of its kind ever built, is to be unloaded Thursday and is scheduled for installation on the Orion crew module in March, in preparation for Orion’s first flight test in September 2014.

>< Video: Textron team readies Orion heat shield for shipment to Kennedy

Image

Orion’s heat shield is loaded onto the Super Guppy in Manchester, N.H., for transport to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Image Credit: NASA

“The heat shield completion and delivery to Kennedy, where Orion is being prepared, is a major step toward Exploration Flight Test-1 next year,” said Dan Dumbacher, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development in Washington. “Sending Orion into space for the first time is going to give us crucial data to improve our design decisions and develop Orion to send humans on future missions to an asteroid and Mars.”

The heat shield began its journey in January 2012 in Colorado, at Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin’s Waterton Facility near Denver. That was the manufacturing site for a titanium skeleton and carbon fiber skin that give the heat shield its shape and provide structural support during landing. They were shipped in March to Textron Defense Systems near Boston, where they were used in construction of the heat shield itself.

Image

NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft takes off from Manchester, N.H., carrying the heat shield that will protect Orion on its first mission, Exploration Flight Test-1, to Kennedy Space Center for installation.
Image Credit: NASA

Textron installed a fiberglass-phenolic honeycomb structure on the skin, filled each of the honeycomb’s 320,000 cells with the ablative material Avcoat, then X-rayed and sanded each cell to match Orion’s design specifications. The Avcoat-treated shell will shield Orion from the extreme heat it will experience as it returns to Earth. The ablative material will wear away as it heats up during Orion’s re-entry into the atmosphere, preventing heat from being transferred to the rest of the capsule.

“Many people across the country have poured a tremendous amount of hard work into building this heat shield,” said Orion Program Manager Mark Geyer. “Their efforts are a critical part of helping us understand what it takes to bring a human-rated spacecraft back safely from deep space.”

Before and during its manufacture, the heat shield material was subjected to arc-jet testing NASA’s Ames Research Center in California and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Arc jets heat and expand gasses to very high temperatures and supersonic and hypersonic speeds, thus simulating the heating conditions that a returning spacecraft will experience.

The heat shield delivered to Kennedy will be used during Exploration Flight Test-1, a two-orbit flight that will take an uncrewed Orion capsule to an altitude of 3,600 miles. The returning capsule is expected to encounter temperatures of almost 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit as it travels through Earth’s atmosphere at up to 20,000 mph, faster than any spacecraft in the last 40 years.

Data gathered during the flight will influence decisions about design improvements on the heat shield and other Orion systems, authenticate existing computer models, and innovative new approaches to space systems and development. It also will reduce overall mission risks and costs for future Orion missions, which include exploring an asteroid and Mars.

Image

EDITOR’S NOTE:

POST IS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON NASA.GOV

NASA’s Dawn Fills out its Ceres Dance Card

Image

This artist’s concept shows NASA’s Dawn spacecraft heading toward the dwarf planet Ceres. Dawn spent nearly 14 months orbiting Vesta, the second most massive object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, from 2011 to 2012.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

It’s going to be a ball when NASA’s Dawn spacecraft finally arrives at the dwarf planet Ceres, and mission managers have now inked in the schedule on Dawn’s dance card.

Dawn has been cruising toward Ceres, the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, since September 2012. That’s when it departed from its first dance partner, Vesta.

Ceres presents an icy — possibly watery — counterpoint to the dry Vesta, where Dawn spent almost 14 months. Vesta and Ceres are two of the largest surviving protoplanets — bodies that almost became planets — and will give scientists clues about the planet-forming conditions at the dawn of our solar system.

When Dawn enters orbit around Ceres, it will be the first spacecraft to see a dwarf planet up-close and the first spacecraft to orbit two solar system destinations beyond Earth.

Image

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will be getting an up-close look at the dwarf planet Ceres starting in late March or the beginning of April 2015.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Our flight plan around Ceres will be choreographed to be very similar to the strategy that we successfully used around Vesta,” said Bob Mase, Dawn’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “This approach will build on that and enable scientists to make direct comparisons between these two giants of the asteroid belt.”

As a prelude, the team will begin approach operations in late January 2015. The next month, Ceres will be big enough in Dawn’s view to be imaged and used for navigation purposes. Dawn will arrive at Ceres — or, more accurately, it will be captured by Ceres’ gravity — in late March or the beginning of April 2015.

Dawn will make its first full characterization of Ceres later in April, at an altitude of about 8,400 miles (13,500 kilometers) above the icy surface. Then, it will spiral down to an altitude of about 2,750 miles (4,430 kilometers), and obtain more science data in its survey science orbit. This phase will last for 22 days, and is designed to obtain a global view of Ceres with Dawn’s framing camera, and global maps with the visible and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIR).

Dawn will then continue to spiral its way down to an altitude of about 920 miles (1,480 kilometers), and in August 2015 will begin a two-month phase known as the high-altitude mapping orbit. During this phase, the spacecraft will continue to acquire near-global maps with the VIR and framing camera at higher resolution than in the survey phase. The spacecraft will also image in “stereo” to resolve the surface in 3-D.

Then, after spiraling down for two months, Dawn will begin its closest orbit around Ceres in late November, at a distance of about 233 miles (375 kilometers). The dance at low-altitude mapping orbit will be a long waltz — three months — and is specifically designed to acquire data with Dawn’s gamma ray and neutron detector (GRaND) and gravity investigation. GRaND will reveal the signatures of the elements on and near the surface. The gravity experiment will measure the tug of the dwarf planet, as monitored by changes in the high-precision radio link to NASA’s Deep Space Network on Earth.

Image

This graphic shows the planned trek of NASA’s Dawn spacecraft from its launch in 2007 through its arrival at the dwarf planet Ceres in early 2015.

At this low-altitude mapping orbit, Dawn will begin using a method of pointing control that engineers have dubbed “hybrid” mode because it utilizes a combination of reaction wheels and thrusters to point the spacecraft. Up until this final mission phase, Dawn will have used just the small thruster jets, which use a fuel called hydrazine, to control its orientation and pointing. While it is possible to explore Ceres completely using only these jets, mission managers want to conserve precious fuel. At this lowest orbit, using two of the reaction wheels to help with pointing will provide the biggest hydrazine savings. So Dawn will be spinning up two of the gyroscope-like devices to aid the thrusters.

In 2011, the Dawn team prepared the capability to operate in a hybrid mode, but it wasn’t needed during the Vesta mission. It was only when a second (of four) reaction wheels developed excessive friction while Dawn was leaving Vesta in 2012 that mission managers decided to use the hybrid mode at Ceres. To prove the technique works, Dawn engineers completed a 27-hour in-flight test of the hybrid mode, ending on Nov. 13. It operated just as expected.

“The successful test of this new way to control our orientation gives us great confidence that we’ll have a steady hand at Ceres, which will enable us to get really close to a world that we only know now as a fuzzy dot amidst the stars,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director, based at JPL.

Of course, mission planners have built some extra days into the schedule to account for the small uncertainty in the efficiency of the solar arrays at such a large distance from the sun, where sunlight will be very faint. The solar arrays provide power to the ion propulsion system, in addition to operating power for the spacecraft and instruments. Mission planners also account for potential variations in the gravity field of Ceres, which will not be known precisely until Dawn measures them.

“We are expecting changes when we get to Ceres and, fortunately, we built a very capable spacecraft and developed flexible plans to accommodate the unknowns,” said Rayman. “There’s great excitement in the unexpected — that’s part of the thrill of exploration.”

Starting on Dec. 27, Dawn will be closer to Ceres than it will be to Vesta.

“This transition makes us eager to see what secrets Ceres will reveal to us when we get up close to this ancient, giant, icy body,” said Christopher Russell, Dawn’s principal investigator, based at UCLA. “While Ceres is a lot bigger than the candidate asteroids that NASA is working on sending humans to, many of these smaller bodies are produced by collisions with larger asteroids such as Ceres and Vesta. It is of much interest to determine the nature of small asteroids produced in collisions with Ceres. These might be quite different from the small rocky asteroids associated with Vesta collisions.”

Image

Dawn’s mission is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital Sciences Corp. in Dulles, Va., designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

 

 

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:

POST IS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON NASA.GOV

Comet ISON Spotted From Space Station

Comet ISON Spotted From Space Station

A close inspection of this image, photographed by one of the Expedition 38 crew members aboard the International Space Station, reveals a pin-head sized view of an object which is actually the comet ISON, seen just to the right of center and a little below center in the frame. Hardware components of the orbital outpost and Earth’s atmosphere above the horizon take up most of the image. Most of the other bright dots in the sky are heavenly bodies. The comet is distinguishable by its tail.
Photo credit: NASA

Apollo 11, July 13, 1969.

Apollo 11, July 13, 1969.

This picture is of the gold replica of an olive branch, the traditional symbol of peace, which was left on the moon’s surface by Apollo 11 crewmembers. Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander, was in charge of placing the small replica (less than half a foot in length) on the moon. The gesture represents a fresh wish for peace for all mankind.

(credit: NASA-JSC)

Questions About ISON? Here Are Some Answers:

Image

Comet ISON imaged on Nov. 19 with the Marshall Space Flight Center 20″ telescope in New Mexico
(NASA/MSFC/MEO/Cameron McCarty)

Unless you’ve been living in the Oort Cloud you’ve probably heard about the current travels of comet C/2012 S1 (aka ISON) through the inner solar system. Although this soon-to-be “sungrazing” comet was first spotted by Russian astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok on Sept. 21, 2012, it’s actually been on its way toward the Sun for much, much longer — possibly for the past several million years or so. But on November 28 at 1:38 p.m. EST, as many Americans are sitting down for their Thanksgiving Day dinners here in the U.S., ISON will make its closest pass around the Sun (called perihelion) and, while you won’t be able to see it in the sky at that point (it’s much too close to the Sun right now) our many eyes in the sky will be watching.

There’s been a lot of misinformation passed around the ‘net recently regarding ISON (as seems to be de rigueur whenever something astronomical is occurring) and I can’t stress enough that there’s no reason to be concerned about this comet’s visit. If anything, ISON should be the one worried — there’s still a chance that it won’t survive perihelion intact! In fact, somereports are suggesting that it already has broken up (which as yet has not been confirmed). So to answer some of the most common questions people have been asking about ISON, NASA has shared some video interviews with experts on the subject. Watch them below:

Don Yeomans is a senior research scientist and near-Earth object expert at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (Source)

In another Q&A video, solar physicist Alex Young (check out his website TheSunToday.org) from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center talks about ISON and what we can learn from its once-in-a-lifetime visit:

“This is just all-in-all a very exciting and a very unique object.”

– C. Alex Young, Ph. D.

Also, here’s the latest view of ISON as seen by NASA’s STEREO-A , one of two solar-observing spacecraft orbiting the Sun on nearly the opposite side of Earth:

The movie from the spacecraft’s Heliospheric Imager (HI) shows comet ISON, Mercury, the periodic comet Encke (which reached perihelion on Nov. 21) and Earth over a five-day period from Nov. 20 to Nov. 25. The Sun is off frame to the right.

Image

Infographic of ISON’s visit to the inner solar system in 2013-2014 (NASA)

Comets have always been a source of fascination to humans. Once seen to portendinauspicious events, and then thought to be fiery “exhalations” of the atmosphere, they are now known to be icy visitors from the furthest reaches of the solar system… leftovers from the time of planetary formation and containing the same stuff that made up the original protoplanetary disk that once surrounded our Sun. It’s a rare event to have an object like ISON — a large, pristine comet that has never been “heat-treated” by the Sun’s corona — come so near and regardless of whether it becomes a dazzling night-sky object or not, scientists around the world are going to get a great chance to learn more about the history of our solar system.

It will be interesting to see if ISON “pulls a Lovejoy” and reappears from around the Sun! You can have your football games — I’ll be rooting for team ISON on Thursday! :)

(Of course, it could also drop an Elenin on us. We’ll just have to wait and see. As the well-known comet hunter David Levy famously said, “Comets are like cats; they have tails, and they do precisely what they want.”)

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) will be watching ISON’s pass on Nov. 28 and sharing the images in near-realtime here (which will give you a much better — and safer — view than going outside and trying to look at the Sun yourself) and ESA’s SOHO spacecraft should be getting ISON in view of its LASCO imagers in just a couple of hours.

Spaceweather.com also has a great library of the latest visitor-submitted photos of ISON and other comets taken from all around the world. It’s also a good source for the most recent info. There’s also a Flickr groupjust for ISON photos.

Check out an infographic of ISON’s visit timeline below, and read more about ISON’s visibility on my friend David Dickinson’s article on Universe Today here.

And as far as after perihelion, the gif below will tell you where in the sky to look for ISON as it (or whatever is left of it) heads back out into space, most likely never again to return. Oh, and sorry, southern hemisphere… ISON is a northern sky object. (Source: Troy Dunham/Huffington Post)

isoncometb-proof_03

Where to find ISON before sunrise in Dec. 2013 (Click to play)

 

Dave Dickinson also has a detailed viewing guide for after perihelion up on Universe Today as well. (Pending ISON’s survival, of course!)

UPDATE 11/27: as of this morning, ISON has appeared in the field of view of the SOHOspacecraft. Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab and member of the ISON observing campaign, currently watching the comet from the Kitt Peak Observatory, has posted some answers to common questions regarding ISON and its chances of surviving perihelion. Read more here.

“Comet ISON has started to act like a Sungrazing comet. What does this mean? Well it means that ISON is now in a very near-Sun region of the solar system and is experiencing levels of solar radiation that your average comet is never going to have to deal with. Accordingly, its surface is boiling away furiously, releasing tremendous amounts of ice, dust and gas and brightening up enormously.”
– Karl Battams

Image of ISON from SOHO’s LASCO C3 camera on 11/27, 16:18 UT. The Sun is behind the blue disk at center. (ESA/NASA)

Image of ISON from SOHO’s LASCO C3 camera on 11/27, 16:18 UT. The Sun is behind the blue disk at center. (ESA/NASA)

 

Note from the Editor:
This post is originally post on Lights In The Dark’s Blog

NASA Damage Map Helps in Typhoon Disaster Response

NASA Damage Map Helps in Typhoon Disaster Response

When Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded on Earth, struck the Philippines Nov. 8, 2013, it tore a wide swath of destruction across large parts of the island nation. To assist in the disaster response efforts, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency, generated this image of the storm’s hardest-hit regions, depicting its destruction.
The 40-by-50 kilometer damage proxy map, which covers a region near Tacloban City, where the massive storm made landfall, was processed by JPL’s Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team using X-band interferometric synthetic aperture radar data from the Italian Space Agency’s COSMO-SkyMed satellite constellation. The technique uses a prototype algorithm to rapidly detect surface changes caused by natural or human-produced damage. The assessment technique is most sensitive to destruction of the built environment. When the radar images areas with little to no destruction, its image pixels are transparent. Increased opacity of the radar image pixels reflects damage, with areas in red reflecting the heaviest damage to cities and towns in the storm’s path. The time span of the data for the change is Aug. 19–Nov. 11, 2013. Each pixel in the damage proxy map is about 30 meters across.
ARIA is a JPL- and NASA-funded project being developed by JPL and Caltech. It is building an automated system for providing rapid and reliable GPS and satellite data to support the local, national, and international hazard monitoring and response communities. Using space-based imagery of disasters, ARIA data products can provide rapid assessments of the geographic region impacted by a disaster, as well as detailed imaging of the locations where damage occurred.

Expedition 37 Bids Farewell to Station Crewmates

ISS Expedition 37 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano bid farewell to their International Space Station crewmates and closed the hatch to their Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft docked at the aft end of the Zvezda service module at 4 a.m. MYT.

When their Soyuz undocks at 7:26 a.m., it will mark the end of Expedition 37 and the start of Expedition 38 under the command of Oleg Kotov. Yurchikhin passed the helm of the station over to Kotov during a change of command ceremony Sunday.

A deorbit burn at 9:55 a.m. will put the Soyuz on track for a parachute-assisted landing in the steppe of Kazakhstan southeast of Dzhezkazgan at 10:49 a.m. ( 8:49 a.m. Monday, Kazakh time).

NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Comes to Life

NASA’s first-ever deep space craft, Orion, has been powered on for the first time, marking a major milestone in the final year of preparations for flight.

 

Image

Technicians work inside the Orion crew module being built at Kennedy Space Center to prepare it for its first power on. Turning the avionics system inside the capsule on for the first time marks a major milestone in Orion’s final year of preparations before its first mission, Exploration Flight Test

Orion’s avionics system was installed on the crew module and powered up for a series of systems tests at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week. Preliminary data indicate Orion’s vehicle management computer, as well as its innovative power and data distribution system — which use state-of-the-art networking capabilities — performed as expected.

All of Orion’s avionics systems will be put to the test during its first mission, Exploration Flight Test-1(EFT-1), targeted to launch in the fall of 2014.

“Orion will take humans farther than we’ve ever been before, and in just about a year we’re going to send the Orion test vehicle into space,” said Dan Dumbacher, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development in Washington. “The work we’re doing now, the momentum we’re building, is going to carry us on our first trip to an asteroid and eventually to Mars. No other vehicle currently being built can do that, but Orion will, and EFT-1 is the first step.”

Orion provides the United States an entirely new human space exploration capability — a flexible system that can to launch crew and cargo missions, extend human presence beyond low-Earth orbit, and enable new missions of exploration throughout our solar system.

EFT-1 is a two-orbit, four-hour mission that will send Orion, uncrewed, more than 3,600 miles above the Earth’s surface –15 times farther than the International Space Station. During the test, Orion will return to Earth, enduring temperatures of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit while traveling 20,000 miles per hour, faster than any current spacecraft capable of carrying humans. The data gathered during the flight will inform design decisions, validate existing computer models and guide new approaches to space systems development. The information gathered from this test also will aid in reducing the risks and costs of subsequent Orion flights.

Image

Technicians work inside the Orion crew module being built at Kennedy Space Center to prepare it for its first power on. Turning the avionics system inside the capsule on for the first time marks a major milestone in Orion’s final year of preparations before its first mission, Exploration Flight Test

 

“It’s been an exciting ride so far, but we’re really getting to the good part now,” said Mark Geyer, Orion program manager. “This is where we start to see the finish line. Our team across the country has been working hard to build the hardware that goes into Orion, and now the vehicle and all our plans are coming to life.”

Throughout the past year, custom-designed components have been arriving at Kennedy for installation on the spacecraft — more than 66,000 parts so far. The crew module portion already has undergone testing to ensure it will withstand the extremes of the space environment. Preparation also continues on the service module and launch abort system that will be integrated next year with the Orion crew module for the flight test.

The completed Orion spacecraft will be installed on a Delta IV heavy rocket for EFT-1. NASA is also developing a new rocket, the Space Launch System, which will power subsequent missions into deep space, beginning with Exploration Mission-1 in 2017.

ATV-4 Ready for Today’s Undocking

Image

 The European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-4 (ATV-4) “Albert Einstein” is about to dock to the orbital outpost at 2:07 GMT, June 15, 2013, following a ten-day period of free-flight.

The Expedition 37 crew is getting Europe’s “Albert Einstein” Automated Transfer Vehicle-4 (ATV-4) ready for its undocking. The ATV-4 has been filled with trash and its hatches have been closed. European Space Agency mission controllers will deorbit the ATV-4 over the Pacific Ocean.

The ATV-4 delivered more than 7 tons of food, fuel and supplies on June 15. It’s undocking is scheduled for 4:59 p.m. MYT Monday. NASA Television will cover the event live beginning at 4:45 p.m.

Read more of this post

Mars Hill-Climbing Opportunity at ‘Solander Point’

Mars Hill-Climbing Opportunity at 'Solander Point'

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover has begun climbing “Solander Point,” the northern tip of the tallest hill it has encountered in the mission’s nearly 10 Earth years on Mars.
Guided by mineral mapping from orbit, the rover is exploring outcrops on the northwestern slopes of Solander Point, making its way up the hill much as a field geologist would do. The outcrops are exposed from several feet (about 2 meters) to about 20 feet (6 meters) above the surrounding plains, on slopes as steep as 15 to 20 degrees. The rover may later drive south and ascend farther up the hill, which peaks at about 130 feet (40 meters) above the plains. Read more of this post

Cygnus Completes Mission

After a month’s stay at the International Space Station, the Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus cargo craft was un-berthed from the Harmony module Oct. 22 by members of the Expedition 37 crew onboard the station. Cygnus will be commanded to de-orbit to a destructive entry back into Earth’s atmosphere on Oct. 23. The second U.S. commercial resupply ship to service the station, Cygnus arrived at the outpost on Sept. 29 in a demonstration flight that was the forerunner for its first full commercial delivery mission later this year of food and supplies to the residents of the orbital complex.

LADEE Arrived At Lunar Orbit During Gov’t Shutdown

NASA’s new LADEE spacecraft successfully entered lunar orbit, is operating beautifully and has begun shooting its radical laser communications experiment despite having to accomplish a series of absolutely critical do-or-die orbital insertion engine firings with a “skeleton crew ” – all this amidst the NASA and US government shutdown, NASA Ames Research Center Director Pete Wordon told Universe Today in a LADEE mission exclusive.

Read more of this post

Mars Rover Curiosity Proves Some Earth Meteorites are Martian

curiosity-rover-mosaic-sol177

Some pieces of rock that fell to Earth from space are indeed from Mars, new measurements reveal.

New data collected by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has pinned down the exact ratio of two forms of the inert gas argon in the Martian atmosphere. These new measurements will not only help confirm the origins of some meteorites, they could also help researchers understand how and when Mars lost most of its atmosphere, transforming from a warm, wet planet to the red desert it is today.

Read more of this post

Saturn From The Perspective That Is Impossible To See From The Earth

Image

An amazing new view of Saturn, created by amateur image processer Gordan Ugarkovic, shows the planet and its rings in all their glory.

Ugarkovic, a Croatian computer programmer, assembled the incredible image from 36 shots snapped by the Cassini spacecraft on Oct. 10. He combined a dozen each of red, green and blue filter images into the stunning mosaic.

“I try to be measured in my praise for spacecraft images,” wrote Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society, the first to spot the image in Ugarkovic’s Flickr stream. “But this enormous mosaic showing the flattened globe of Saturn floating amongst the complete disk of its rings must surely be counted among the great images of the Cassini mission.”

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has been in orbit around Saturn for almost nine years. It is expected to study the ringed planet and its moons until 2017.

See more photos by Ugarkovic here:http://www.flickr.com/photos/ugordan/.

NASA reopening doors, getting back online after shutdown ends

Image

NASA is open for business again.

With the government shutdown officially over, space agency employees are trickling back in to the many NASA centers sprinkled throughout the country. Since the shutdown began on Oct. 1, fewer than 600 of NASA’s 18,000 employees were allowed to work.

Read more of this post

Mercury Astronaut Scott Carpenter, Second American in Orbit, Dies at 88

Image

 

Godspeed, Scott Carpenter.

The United States’ fourth astronaut to fly in space and the second to orbit the Earth, Scott Carpenter, 88, died on Thursday (Oct. 10) after suffering a recent stroke.

The original Mercury 7 astronaut was being cared for at a hospice center in Denver when he passed. Carpenter was initially expected to make a full recovery from the stroke, but his condition worsened this week, sources close to his family shared.

Carpenter passed at 5:30 a.m. MDT (7:30 a.m. EDT; 1130 GMT) with his wife Patty at his side, his family confirmed to collectSPACE.com. 

“Today, the world mourns the passing of Scott Carpenter,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “As one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, he was in the first vanguard of our space program — the pioneers who set the tone for our nation’s pioneering efforts beyond Earth.”

“His accomplishments truly helped our nation progress in space from the earliest days to the world leadership we enjoy today,” Bolden said. “We will miss his passion, his talent and his lifelong commitment to exploration.”

Chosen in 1959 among NASA’s first astronauts, Carpenter made his first and only spaceflight on May 24, 1962, when he became the sixth man worldwide to leave the planet.

During his Mercury-Atlas 7 mission, Carpenter circled the Earth three times, conducted some of the first astronaut science experiments, and consumed the first solid space food — small square cubes composed of chocolate, figs, and dates mixed with high-protein cereals.

“You have to realize my experience with zero-g, although transcending and more fun than I can tell you about, was, in the light of current space flight accomplishments, very brief,” Carpenter said in 1999 during a NASA oral history interview. “The zero-g sensation and the visual sensation of space flight are transcending experiences, and I wish everybody could have them.”

He splashed down aboard his “Aurora 7” capsule 4 hours and 56 minutes after his launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla. — and 250 miles (400 kilometers) off course. His overshot re-entry was the result of several spacecraft malfunctions, including the intermittent failure of attitude indicators and the retrorockets firing late and underthrust. 

“I had the record for overshooting the target for a long time until some cosmonauts came along some years later and missed theirs by 1,500 miles,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter never flew in space again, the result of an injury to his left arm sustained in a motorcycle accident in 1964. He did however, become an aquanaut, spending a record 30 days on the ocean floor aboard the Navy’s SEALAB II, an experimental habitat located off the coast of California.

Besides his own space and sea adventures, Carpenter is popularly remembered for his radio call “Godspeed, John Glenn,” which heralded his fellow Mercury astronaut’s lift off to become the first American in orbit on Feb. 20, 1962. With Carpenter’s passing, Glenn is the last of the Mercury 7 astronauts alive today.

Malcolm Scott Carpenter was born in Boulder, Colorado, on May 1, 1925, to Dr. Marion Scott Carpenter, a research chemist, and Florence (Noxon) Carpenter. He attended the University of Colorado, where he received his bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1949.

Commissioned in the Navy in 1949, Scott Carpenter underwent flight training in Pensacola, Fla. and Corpus Christi, Texas before becoming a Naval Aviator in April 1951. During the Korean War, Carpenter served with patrol Squadron Six, flying anti-submarine, ship surveillance, and aerial mining, and ferret missions in the Yellow Sea, South China Sea, and the Formosa Straits.

After the war and attending the Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland, Carpenter was assigned to the electronics test division of the Naval Air Test Center, also at Patuxent. In that assignment, he test flew every type of naval aircraft including multi and single-engine jet fighters, propeller-powered fighters, attack planes, patrol bombers, transports and seaplanes.

From 1957 to 1959, Carpenter attended the Navy General Line School and the Navy Air Intelligence School and was then assigned as an air intelligence officer to USS Hornet aircraft carrier. Carpenter was serving on the Hornet when he received secret orders to report to Washington for what he soon learned was NASA’s recruitment effort for Project Mercury astronauts.

Following his Aurora 7 spaceflight and participation in the Navy’s Man-in-Sea Project, Carpenter served as executive assistant to the director of the Manned Spacecraft Center (today, Johnson Space Center in Houston) and was active in designing the Apollo lunar module, as well as advancing the use of underwater training for spacewalks.

He left NASA in 1967, and spent two more years with the Navy’s Deep Submergence Systems Project, prior to his retirement from public service. Carpenter then established and led Sea Sciences, a venture capital corporation aimed at enhancing the use of ocean resources while improving the health of the planet. In pursuit of these goals, he dove in most of the world’s oceans, including the Arctic.

Image

 

Later as a consultant, Carpenter contributed to improving diving instruments, including breathing devices, swimmer propulsion units and small submersibles.

A recipient of the National Aeronautic Association’s Collier Trophy, a member of the Astronaut Hall of Fame and a co-founder of the Mercury 7 Foundation (today the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation), Carpenter told of his “uncommon journey” to become a Mercury astronaut in “For Spacious Skies,” his 2003 autobiography penned with his daughter Kristen Stoever.

He also wrote the “underwater techno-thriller” novels “The Steel Albatross” in 1991 and “Deep Flight” in 1994.

Carpenter is survived by his wife Patty Barrett and seven children, four from his first marriage, two from his second marriage and one from his third. He is also survived by two stepchildren, a granddaughter and five step-grandchildren.

This story was updated at 5:20 p.m. ET to include new comments from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

 

Source: Space.com, Collectspace.com

JUNO Suffers Glitch After Earth Flyby

Image

 

A NASA spacecraft bound for Jupiter went into a precautionary safe mode today (Oct. 9), shortly after completing a speed-boosting flyby of Earth.

NASA’s Juno probe detected an anomalous condition and went into safe mode this afternoon after slingshotting around Earth to gain momentum for the long trip to the solar system’s largest planet, according to media reports. While Juno’s handlers are still trying to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it, they’re hopeful that the problem won’t threaten the $1.1 billion mission.

“We believe we are on track as planned to Jupiter,” Juno project manager Rick Nybakken, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told the Associated Press. He described his level of concern as “moderate.”

The Juno mission launched in August 2011 and is slated to arrive at the Jovian system in July 2016. The probe is so heavy — about 8,000 pounds (3,267 kilograms) — that its Atlas 5 rocket couldn’t send it all the way to Jupiter by itself, so mission planners devised the Earth flyby to finish the job.

The flyby, which was highlighted by a close approach that brought Juno within just 347 miles (558 kilometers) of Earth at 3:21 p.m. EDT (1921 GMT), was designed to boost the probe’s speed from 78,000 mph (126,000 km/h) to 87,000 mph (140,000 km/h), mission officials said.

Once Juno enters orbit around Jupiter, it will study the gas giant’s atmosphere, gravitational field and magnetic field with nine science instruments over the course of a full Earth year. Scientists hope the probe’s observations reveal insights about Jupiter’s formation, structure and composition, including whether or not the planet possesses a solid core.

While the main purpose of today’s flyby was to give Juno a speed boost, mission officials also planned to check out the spacecraft’s science gear during the maneuver.

The Juno team was also planning to take pictures of the Earth-moon system. The probe returned surprisingly little data during the flyby, the AP reported.

%d bloggers like this: