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Archive for the ‘Space Nasa Science Astronauts’ Category

NASA To Visit Asteroid That May Hit Earth

Posted by 3citynewswire on 08/09/2010

There’s a mountain-size asteroid on a potential

collision course with Earth, and NASA has plans to pay it a visit.

The asteroid 1999 RQ36 diameter of approximately 1,837.27 feet (560 metres) made headlines last week with the announcement that the space rock could hit our planet in 2182. But a handful of scientists have had their eyes on this asteroid since 2007, planning a sample-return mission designed to help us better predict—and avoid—impact hazards.


The mission, called OSIRIS-Rex (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer), is one of two finalists in the current competition for funding under NASA’s New Frontiers program, up against a proposed mission to land on Venus. The selected mission will be announced in summer 2011.

If OSIRIS-Rex gets the green light, the spacecraft will launch in 2016 with the goal of mapping and bringing back pieces of the asteroid.
The potentially hazardous Asteroid (101955)
Asteroid Images

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NASA Keeps An Eye On Some Space Junk

Posted by 3citynewswire on 06/18/2010

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (June 18, 2010)–NASA is keeping a close watch on three pieces of old Russian and Chinese satellite and rocket parts that could come uncomfortably close to the International Space Station this weekend.

Mission managers decided there was no need to move the station Friday to dodge a fourth piece of junk, but the station’s orbit continues to be reassessed.
Click here to find out more!

A Russian capsule docked Thursday carrying three new residents.

The Soyuz arrival means there are now two women living full time at the space station for the first time ever.

Shannon Walker, a physicist from Houston, joins Tracy Dyson Caldwell. Walker took Amelia Earhart’s watch into orbit.

Four men also are on board the space station.

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Hayabusa re-entry spectacular fireball.

Posted by 3citynewswire on 06/13/2010

Five years after touching down on a distant asteroid, Japan’s Hayabusa space probe returned to Earth on Sunday, landing in the Australian Outback after a spectacular fireball. Recorded from NASA DC-8 over Australia

Officials at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) aren’t sure whether the probe managed to collect samples from asteroid Itokawa after its three-month rendezvous with the small space rock in 2005. They would be the first samples returned from the surface of an asteroid.

The probe burned up on reentry, streaking through the night sky (see video here), and Hayabusa’s heat-resistant container landed with the aid of a parachute in South Australia’s Woomera Prohibited Range.

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Posted by 3citynewswire on 06/12/2010

LIVE – HAYABUSA RE-ENTRY – Live video feed

An attempt will be made to provide a live video feed of the Hayabusa Re-Entry in the minutes around the re-entry at 13:51 UT, Sunday June 13. The video will be chosen from cameras operated onboard NASA’s DC-8 Airborne Laboratory by Jesse Carpenter and Greg Merkes of NASA Ames Research Center, or those operated by Ron Dantowitz, Marek Kozubal, James Brietmeyer and Brigitte Berman of Clay Center Observatory, or those operated by Mike Taylor and Jonathan Snively of Utah State University. Please note that such downlinks have proven very difficult in past missions. The Hayabusa re-entry will be fainter than that of ATV-1 “Jules Verne” in 2008. Also, the video feed will be transmitted by the DC-8 aircraft via INMARSAT and may not be of high quality. Large volumes of traffic on this website may hinder watching this live feed. For that reason, shortly after the re-entry, we plan to upload higher quality video, first via the INMARSAT uplink on our way back, and later, after we land at Melbourne, via an internet communication. KEEP IN MIND THE TIME THE EVENT STARTS. That’s when the live stream is expected to begin.

The capsule is due to land at the Woomera Prohibited Area (to the East of Glendambo (see below map)) in South Australia at 11.30pm this Sunday (13 June 2010).

Expected landing area - Glendambo location map

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Asteroid probe due to land Sunday in South Australia.

Posted by 3citynewswire on 06/10/2010

Artist's rendering of Hayabusa probe

Hayabusa — the Japanese probe launched seven years ago to try to capture the first samples from an asteroid — is on its way home and is due to land Sunday in South Australia.

Touchdown for the craft’s capsule is set for 10 a.m. ET Sunday  in a remote part of the Australian outback. The final trajectory correction took place Tuesday. So it’s not at all clear if the returning capsule will contain any asteroid dust in its collection canister. Scientists say the dust could help them gain new understanding of how the solar system formed.

“This is the second highest velocity re-entry of a capsule in history,” said Peter Jenniskens, a scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Centre. “Such man-made objects entering with interplanetary speed do not happen every day, and we hope to get a ringside seat to this one.”

The 40-centimetre-wide containment capsule will separate from the main spacecraft well above the Earth’s atmosphere. It will eventually deploy a parachute to help slow its landing. The capsule also has a radio beacon.

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Newly discovered comet visible in morning sky

Posted by 3citynewswire on 06/10/2010

A recently discovered comet is surprising skywatchers by becoming brighter than predictions had first suggested and can now be seen with the unaided eye during the next few weeks.

Comet McNaught, officially catalogued as C/2009 R1, was discovered by Australian astronomer Robert McNaught last September using the using the 0.5-meter Uppsala Schmidt telescope and a CCD camera. It’s the 51st comet that bears McNaught’s name.

Although initially an extremely faint object, enough observations of the newfound comet were made to allow Brian Marsden of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., to calculate an orbit.

Comet McNaught is expected to pass closest to the sun (perihelion) on July 2, at a distance of 37 million miles (60 million km). The sky map shows where to look in order to spot the comet in the morning sky. (SkyMap below)

The comet is visible now for people with dark skies away from urban and suburban lighting. By mid-June it may be an easy skywatching target for most people.

Comets brighten when the get nearer to the sun, because solar radiation boils icy particles and dust off the comet’s nucleus. A cloud of material called a head, or coma, and sometimes a tail form. It’s all illuminated by reflected sunlight.

The most recent “reliable” observation was made by Alexandre Amorim of Florianopolis,Brazil who saw the comet on June 6 using 10×50 binoculars and estimated the magnitude as +5.5. That’s about as bright as the faintest star in the bowl of the Little Dipper (on this scale, smaller numbers represent brighter objects). In the coming days, the comet is expected to continue to brighten as it gets closer to the sun.

If you want to get a view of the comet, you’ll have to get up early in the morning. Set your alarm clock for at least two hours before sunrise. For most people that will mean around 3:30 a.m. local time. The comet is currently moving through the constellation of Perseus, the Hero, which at that early hour will be low in the northeast part of the sky.

The comet will pass to the south of the second magnitude star, Mirfak around June 14. Both star and comet will be about 20-degrees above the northeast horizon (10-degrees is roughly equal to the width of your clenched fist held at arm’s length; so the comet will be about “two fists” up from the horizon). Don’t expect anything spectacular just yet, however.

The comet should appear as a dim and diffuse, circular patch of light. Binoculars or a small telescope will help to bring it out better; you might even make out a faint greenish color.

sky map

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Hints of life found on Saturn moon

Posted by 3citynewswire on 06/06/2010

Two potential signatures of life on Saturn’s moon Titan have been found by the Cassini spacecraft. But scientists are quick to point out that non-biological chemical reactions could also be behind the observations.

Titan is much too cold to support liquid water on its surface, but some scientists have suggested that exotic life-forms could live in the lakes of liquid methane or ethane that dot the moon’s surface.

In 2005, Chris McKay of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field and Heather R Smith of the International Space University in Strasbourg, France, calculated that such microbes could eke out an existence by breathing in hydrogen gas and eating the organic molecule acetylene, creating methane in the process.

This would result in a lack of acetylene on Titan and a depletion of hydrogen close to the moon’s surface, where the microbes would live, they said.

Now, measurements from the Cassini spacecraft have borne out these predictions, hinting that life may be present. Read more here

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Bright Fireball Slams Into Jupiter. Flash from new impact caught on film.

Posted by 3citynewswire on 06/05/2010

Amateur astronomers Anthony Wesley (whose video this is) of Australia and Christopher Go of the Philippines have independently observed an impact event on Jupiter. The strike occurred at 20:31 UT on June 3rd, 2010 and produced a bright flash of light in the giant planet’s cloudtops.

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Earth is heading for contact with a massive, hot cloud of interstellar gas

Posted by 3citynewswire on 05/27/2010

Astronomers announce that they’ve recently discovered a worrying fact – our Sun, and with it the entire solar system, including Earth – is heading for contact with a massive, hot cloud of interstellar gas. The meet-up will take place within the next 100 years or so, and the event will represent the cosmic-scale equivalent of global warming. The extent of the damage that this collision will have on our planet has not yet been calculated, but astronomers believe that Earth should suffer little to no negative side-effects. But astronauts going to space will be exposed to increased amounts of radiation, they add.
the Sun (or vice-versa) were recorded by the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts, which are currently en-route to exit the solar system. The robotic probes looked at the solar wind, the stream of charged particles that permeate the space between the planets, and determined that the envelope it creates is uneven in one direction. This is the direction in which the Sun is moving, which can only mean that something is pushing against this layer, causing it to deform. Finding out precisely what the root cause of this phenomenon is has been a long-standing goal for researchers, and it would appear that a valid explanation has finally been set forth.

The termination shock asymmetry that the Voyagers discovered is produced some 14 to 15 billion years away from the Sun, where solar wind particles bump into counterparts from the interstellar space. The result is a massive surge in radiation, which is unevenly distributed. A hot cloud of interstellar gas may help explain this occurrence, astrophysicists say. This answer was first suggested by the two probes, but it wasn’t until the NASA Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft was launched two years ago that physicists got the confirmation they needed. But the satellite also uncovered a mystery of its own, when he detected the existence of a “ribbon”-like structure at the edge of the solar system, made up of charged particles.

Though it initially surprised everyone, the ribbon eventually led to the development of the new theory, which is based on both Voyager and IBEX data. Scientists now believe that the ribbon’s existence can be explained by the fact that the Sun is heading towards an ancient supernova remnant. Interactions between the two may account for the asymmetries taking place at the edges of the solar system. Details of the explanation appear in the latest issue of the esteemed Astrophysical Journal, ScienceNow reports.


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What is the purpose of the X-37B secret space plane?

Posted by 3citynewswire on 05/16/2010

When the U.S. Air Force launched its secret space plane last month, speculation about the X-37B’s true purpose ran wild.

Some conjectured that it might be a prototype for an orbiting bomber. Others warned of “a johnny-on-the-spot weapons platform to take out the satellite assets of an enemy.” Prominent members of the Russian military establishment screamed that Moscow needed to build up its own space arsenal, ASAP. The British press, meanwhile, made dark insinuations about “the testing of new laser weapon systems” in space.

The reality is probably less exotic. In all likelihood, the space plane is another way for the American military to spy on its foes from on high. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the Secure World Foundation, provided to Danger Room.

“Although there doesn’t appear to be any one mission that justifies the X-37B program, the ability to flight-test new sensors and hardware before they go into full development, combined with a more timely, flexible way to conduct surveillance, is why I think this program is going forward,” says former Air Force Space and Missile officer Brian Weeden, the report’s primary author.

The Pentagon used to turn to the Space Shuttle from time to time to deliver spy satellites into orbit. But the Shuttle is about to be retired. Enter the X-37B — an unmanned, smaller-scale version of the reusable spacecraft. Not only can it carry signals and intelligence sensors in its payload bay. But because it can stay in space for weeks or months at a time, the X-37B can give those new sensors time to be put into action.

The “ability to re-configure the payload bay contents for various sensor packages would make it much more flexible than having to procure multiple satellites,” the report notes. And “once in orbit,” the X-37B could be much more maneuverable than current or planed satellites, “allowing for more flexible ground coverage.”

“Imagine there’s a flareup in one particular corner of the world,” Weeden adds. “The battlefield commander there needs a certain space ISR [intelligence surveillance reconnaissance] capability. You can slap those sensors from a rack into the X-37B and fire away.”

Other missions are far less likely, Weeden believes. Repairing (or screwing with) satellites in orbit would be tough — “not many existing operational military satellite components will fit in the X-37B cargo bay,” the report notes.

Dropping bombs from the X-37B seems even more far-fetched. “Weapons dropped from [its] bay would need to be equipped with thrusters capable of performing a huge deorbit burn, [which would be] very difficult given [the space plane’s] small bay size,” according to the report. What’s more, “X-37B after re-entry would be a slow moving, not-very-maneuverable glide bomb, easy prey for any air defense system along its path to the target…. [and] having only few X-37Bs would not provide very timely coverage of potential ground targets.”

Not that the United States has ruled out space weapons entirely. “My sense is there is not going to be a great tolerance for a significant offensive capability in space,” General James Cartwright told a Washington symposium yesterday. “The question is, what’s the right balance between defense and offense in space?”

The X-37B will almost certainly play a role in that debate.

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