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Shuttle Endeavour Comes Home

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Endeavour landing on runway 15 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, August 21, 2007
Endeavour landing on runway 15 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, August 21, 2007. Image credit: NASA/George Shelton
The space shuttle Endeavour and its crew are home after completing a 13-day mission. Endeavour's STS-118 mission successfully added another truss segment, a new gyroscope and external spare parts platform to the International Space Station. Endeavour's Commander Scott Kelly, Pilot Charlie Hobaugh and mission specialists Tracy Caldwell, Rick Mastracchio, Barbara R. Morgan, Alvin Drew and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Dave Williams landed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday at 12:32 p.m. EDT.

Williams, Mastracchio and station flight engineer Clayton Anderson, with the help of their crewmates, made four spacewalks to accomplish the construction tasks. The spacewalkers also completed work in preparation for upcoming assembly missions, such as relocating an equipment cart and installing support equipment and communication upgrades. During the mission, a new system that enables docked shuttles to draw electrical power from the station to extend visits to the outpost was activated successfully. Because the system worked, two additional days were added to Endeavour's mission.

Although managers addressed several issues with Endeavour's heat shield, including a small gouge in the protective tile on the orbiter's belly, inspections in orbit revealed no critical damage. Endeavour's thermal protection system was declared safe for re-entry on Monday. The orbiter will be processed immediately for its next flight, targeted for February 2008.

NASA: Shuttle Endeavour Crew Returns Home After Successful Mission

NASA: Space Shuttle News Site currently features high resolution images from STS-118 tile damage and landing

NPR: Space Shuttle Endeavour Lands in Florida

Lunar Eclipse, 28 August 2007

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A total eclipse of the Moon will occur during the early morning of Tuesday, August 28, 2007. The event is widely visible from the United States and Canada as well as South America, the Pacific Ocean, western Asia and Australia. In Arizona (GMT-7), the eclipse will begin around 1:51AM, reach totality around 3:37AM, and end around 5:24AM.

NASA: August 2007 Total Lunar Eclipse Information and Schedule

NASA: 2007 Lunar Eclipses

Phoenix Launch Delayed

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

From the NASA Phoenix Mission site:

The launch of the Phoenix spacecraft has been rescheduled to Aug. 4. Due to the forecast for severe weather in the vicinity of the launch pad on Tuesday afternoon, the Delta II launch team was unable to complete fueling of the rocket's second stage. The two available launch times on Aug. 4 are 5:26:34 and 6:02:59 a.m. EDT.

The Phoenix Mars lander's assignment is to dig through the Martian soil and ice in the arctic region and use its onboard scientific instruments to analyze the samples it retrieves.

Both rocket and spacecraft have been undergoing final preparation at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

For more information about the Phoenix mission, visit:

For more information about NASA TV, streaming video, and downlink and schedule information, visit:

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

NASA Image of the Day: Flagstaff area volcanoes

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Today's NASA Image of the Day is a rendering of the San Francisco volcano field, the home of Flagstaff, Arizona.

ASTER perspective on a mountain range
ASTER perspective was created by draping ASTER image data over topographic data from the U.S. Geological Survey National Elevation Data.

Image credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

From the NASA Image of the Day site: Northern Arizona is best known for the Grand Canyon. Less widely known are the hundreds of geologically young volcanoes, at least one of which buried the homes of local residents. San Francisco Mountain, a truncated stratovolcano, was once a much taller structure before it exploded some 400,000 years ago a la Mt. St. Helens. The young cinder cone field to its east includes Sunset Crater, that erupted in 1064 and buried Native American homes. This ASTER perspective was created by draping ASTER image data over topographic data from the U.S. Geological Survey National Elevation Data.

Continue reading "NASA Image of the Day: Flagstaff area volcanoes"

PBS Arizona Stories: Apollo Astronaut Training

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

PBS is airing Arizona Stories: Apollo Astronaut Training Sunday, July 15, 2007. This documentary presents an overview of the USGS Astrogeology Research Program's involvement in training the Apollo astronauts in field geology techniques to help them acheive the science objectives of the lunar landing missions. From the transcript: "Beginning about 1964, the U.S.G.S. took Astronauts on geologic field trips to places like the Grand Canyon and Meteor Crater southeast of Flagstaff . When astronauts were not available, geologists dressed up in spacesuits and simulated the work that would be done on the moon. Learning to relay geologic observations by radio was important because during actual moon landings, U.S.G.S. scientists were at mission control, keeping track of where astronauts were on the lunar surface." The documentary includes interviews with Gene Shoemaker and Gerald Schaber, and video footage of training site preparation and activities.

More: KAET/PBS Arizona Stories: Apollo Astronaut Training

More: KAET/PBS Arizona Stories program schedule

Link: USGS Astrogeology Research Program History

Link: USGS Astro - Astronaut Training and Equipment Testing Photo Gallery

Link: USGS Astro - The View From An Astronaut's Eyes Apollo Photo Gallery

Dust Storm Affects Mars Rovers

Friday, July 6, 2007

NASA - A giant dust storm brewing for more than a week on Mars has become worse and is affecting surface operations of the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Because the rovers depend on solar energy for survival, and the dust is partially blocking the sun, the storm is being watched closely by the rover scientists and engineers. Opportunity's entry into Victoria Crater is delayed for at least several days.

The storm, the most severe storm yet to hit the rovers, is expected to continue for at least another week. Opportunity is perched near "Duck Bay" as it readies to descend into Victoria Crater, but operations were scaled back on Saturday, June 30, to conserve power.

More: NASA - Dust Delays Mars Crater Entry

'In the Shadow of the Moon' makes Sedona debut

Monday, July 2, 2007

From the Sedona Film Festival website:

In the Shadow of the Moon, the first-hand thoughts of the surviving crew members from every Apollo moon mission between 1968 and 1972, will be featured at the July installment of the popular Second Tuesday Cinema Series. It is the feature presentation at 7 p.m., July 10 at the Harkins Sedona Six Theatres. Presented by the Sedona International Film Festival and Workshop, “In the Shadow of the Moon” was the top documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, winning the prestigious “Audience Choice World Cinema Best Documentary” Award and going on to audience and critical acclaim at high-profile film festivals around the world since then.


Where: Harkins Sedona Six Theatres

When: July 10, 2007

Time: 7:00pm Cost: $10, or $8 for Film Sedona members

More: Internet Movie Database "In the Shadow of the Moon"

More: Sundance Film Festival "In the Shadow of the Moon"

Job Opening: Technical Information Specialist

Monday, July 2, 2007

Application Deadline: July 30, 2007 (note, the deadline has been extended from the original date of July 23, 2007)

The Astrogeology Team of the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Arizona has openings for a full-time, permanent Technical Information Specialist (GS-1412) position at the GS-7 to -9 grade levels. The salary range for this position is $35,752.00 TO $56,849.00. The position will open on July 2, 2007 and close on July 23, 2007.

The incumbent will manage the Astrogeology Regional Planetary Information Facility (RPIF) on behalf of NASA and USGS. The RPIF is a planetary resource library and an archival repository for photographic and supplemental engineering data products. Major duties include but are not limited to: Incorporates new information and data into RFIF digital and hardcopy archives. Maintains digital catalogs and inventories. Oversees and manages archival historic and/or research materials. Generates inventories, catalogs, and digital image products for use in specific research efforts or for transfer to public information users. Assists planetary scientists in finding images, maps, and other data. Conducts general interest tours of RPIF and Astrogeology collections and facilities on a variety of planetary science topics. Provides technical or operational guidance to assistants. Assists senior staff with development and maintenance of long-range plans for future management and operation of the facility.

The Astrogeology Program of the USGS operates largely on funding from NASA.

The mission of Astrogeology is to establish and maintain geoscientific and technical expertise in planetary science and remote sensing to perform three major tasks:

  • Scientifically study and map Earth and extraterrestrial bodies,
  • Plan and conduct planetary exploration missions, and
  • Explore and develop new technologies in data processing and analysis, archiving, and distribution.

Please see our Web site ( for more information on the breadth of our research program.

To learn more about this opportunity and/or to apply go to the USGS online Online Automated Recruitment Site (OARS) at:

Look for announcement # WR-2007-0448 for all U.S. citizens or #WR-2007-0454 for specific eligibility as described within the announcement.

or visit USA-Jobs at:

Look for announcement # WR-2007-0448 for all U.S. citizens. USA-Jobs will direct applicants to the OARS site above as all must apply via the OARS system.

Applicants must apply online at the OARS site by the closing date of the announcement (midnight Eastern Time on July 23, 2007).

Contact Karen Perez for more information:

U.S. Geological Survey

Department of Interior

Office of Human Resources

3020 State University Drive East

Modoc Hall, Suite 2001

Sacramento, CA 95819

Attn: Karen Perez, 916-278-9389

Fax: 916-278-9401


Mars Digital Dune Database

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mars Dunes database screenshot
Mars Digital Dune Database

The Mars Global Digital Dune Database presents data and describes the methodology used in creating the database. The database provides a comprehensive and quantitative view of the geographic distribution of moderate- to large-size dune fields from 65° north to 65° south latitude and encompasses approximately 550 dune fields.

The database is presented in a variety of formats. It is presented as a series of ArcReader projects which can be opened using the free ArcReader software. The latest version of ArcReader can be downloaded at the ESRI web site. The database is also presented in ArcMap projects. The ArcMap projects allow fuller use of the data, but require ESRI ArcMap software. Multiple projects were required to accommodate the large number of images needed. A fuller description of the projects can be found in the Dunes_ReadMe file and the ReadMe_GIS file in the Documentation folder. For users who prefer to create their own projects, the data is available in ESRI shapefile and geodatabase formats, as well as the open Geographic Markup Language (GML) format. A printable map of the dunes and craters in the database is available as a Portable Document Format (PDF) document. The map is also included as a JPEG file. ReadMe files are available in PDF and ASCII (.txt) files. Tables are available in both Excel (.xls) and ASCII formats.

USGS: Mars Digital Dune Database - Download the database and view additional information

USGS Astro: Mars Dunes - learn more about the project and participants

Solar System Poetry

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Stuart Atkinson, a U.K. writer and amateur astronomer, maintains a blog of his beautiful solar system poetry called The Verse. A snippet from his poem entitled "Titan":

The first time I saw you
I was twelve. Standing alone
In the crisp Christmas snow, eyes watering
With the cold I peered into my new
Telescope’s eyepiece and there you were:
A tiny – golden? – glint, a hint,
A spark of light beside
The badly-focussed globe of Saturn.

Looking at you even then I knew
That “moon” was far too shy a word.
Centuries of spying on you
Had revealed to Man the Truth,
That you were a World, a Planet
In all but name. Plaque-carrying Pioneers
And Voyagers had already sailed past you,
Cameras clicking in the cold
Of space, but your face remained
Hidden beneath that veil of ochre,
Choking cloud; our first emissaries found
No Mariner mountains poking through…

Read more on The Verse...

NASA's Next Mars Lander Heads for Florida

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

phoenix  lander
Artist's concept of Phoenix lander. Image credit: NASA/JPL
A U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft carried NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander spacecraft Monday, May 7, from Colorado to Florida, where Phoenix will start a much longer trip in August.

After launch, Phoenix will land on a Martian arctic plain next spring. It will use a robotic digging arm and other instruments to determine whether the soil environment just beneath the surface could have been a favorable habitat for microbial life. Studies from orbit suggest that within arm's reach of the surface, the soil holds frozen water.

More: NASA Mission News - NASA's Next Mars Spacecraft Crosses the Mississippi

Cassini searching for seas on Titan

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Cassini to Confirm if 'Caspian Sea' is Liquid-Filled

For Cassini's next flyby of Titan on May 12, 2007, the radar instrument was originally pointing north of where it is now pointed. Due to the discovery of probable large seas on Titan, Cassini's quick-thinking team repointed the radar instrument south, so it could fly over a large, expansive dark area dubbed the "Caspian Sea." This flyby will confirm whether it is liquid-filled. This area on Titan's north pole stretches 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) and is only slightly smaller than Earth's Caspian Sea.

The presence of seas on Titan reinforces the idea that Titan's surface must be re-supplying methane to its atmosphere.

More: NASA Cassini-Huygens Mission - Titan Flyby, May 12, 2007

Fantastic images of Jupiter captured by New Horizons

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

This amazing color portrait of Jupiter’s “Little Red Spot” (LRS) combines high-resolution images from the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager and the Hubble Space Telescope.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

May 1, 2007, NASA released stunning new images of Jupiter and its moons taken by the New Horizons spacecraft. Views include a movie of a volcanic eruption on Jupiter's moon Io; a nighttime shot of auroras and lava on Io; a color photo of the "Little Red Spot" churning in Jupiter's cloudtops; images of small moons herding dust and boulders through Jupiter's faint rings--and much more!

More: Science@NASA - Fantastic Flyby

More: New Horizons Mission Gallery

New Release: Clementine NIR Full-Resolution Lunar Mosaic (V. 0.1)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

We are pleased to announce the availability of a full-resolution version of the Clementine near-infrared (NIR) lunar mosaic. Processed to 100 m/pixel spatial resolution, a PDS-compliant image cube version (with detached ISIS labels) of this 6-band (1100 to 2780 nm) multispectral mosaic can be viewed or downloaded via FTP from the PDS Imaging Node's FTP site. This Preliminary Release (V. 0.1) of the full-resolution mosaic marks the beginning of the review process by PDS peer reviewers. Users of these data should keep in mind that this version remains subject to revision pending the outcome of this review process.

These full-resolution data are compatible with the previous PDS Clementine UVVIS 'Full Resolution Digital Image Model' available through PDS Map-a-Planet and the PDS Planetary Image Atlas. Once finalized, these multispectral data will also be available through these Web sites.

See documentation on the FTP site for more details.

Download the data from the PDS Imaging Node's FTP site (

  • Server:
  • User: anonymous
  • Password: your e-mail address
  • Directory: /cdroms/clementine/Clem_NIR_V0.1/

Visit our Clementine Near-Infrared Global Map page for more lunar images and information!

Cassini Spacecraft Images Seas on Saturn's Moon Titan

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

comparing sizes between lake superior and lakes on titan
A comparison view of a lake on Titan and Lake Superior. Image credit: NASA/JPL/GSFC

Instruments on NASA's Cassini spacecraft have found evidence for seas, likely filled with liquid methane or ethane, in the high northern latitudes of Saturn's moon Titan. One such feature is larger than any of the Great Lakes of North America and is about the same size as several seas on Earth.

Cassini's radar instrument imaged several very dark features near Titan's north pole. Much larger than similar features seen before on Titan, the largest dark feature measures at least 100,000 square kilometers (39,000 square miles). Since the radar has caught only a portion of each of these features, only their minimum size is known. Titan is the second largest moon in the solar system and is about 50 percent larger than Earth's moon.

More: NASA - Cassini Spacecraft Images Seas on Saturn's Moon Titan