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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: http://www.nasa.gov/phoenix

For more information about NASA TV, streaming video, and downlink and schedule information, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/

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


Fantastic images of Jupiter captured by New Horizons

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

jupiter
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

SMART-1 hits the Moon

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

LUNAR FLASH: As planned, Europe's SMART-1 spacecraft crashed into the Moon this morning, Sept. 3rd, at 0542 UT. The resulting flash was too faint for most backyard telescopes, but a team of astronomers using the big 3.6m CFHT telescope in Hawaii did manage to photograph the explosion.

Visit http://spaceweather.com for updates and images.

Deep Impact Reveals Comet’s Components

Monday, July 17, 2006

Comet materials
Image: COURTESY OF NASA/JPL-CALTECH/R. HURT 200x175

The Fourth of July last year had some extra fireworks. NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft sent a hefty projectile--more than 800 pounds--into the body of the comet known as Tempel 1. The collision delivered 19 gigajoules of energy--the equivalent of nearly five tons of explosive TNT--into the wandering comet and ejected a plume of its innermost secrets. Roughly 10 million kilograms of comet stuff (more than 22 million pounds) spread out into space, giving scientists a rare glimpse of the ingredients that go into making a comet. Now researchers observing with the Spitzer Space Telescope have revealed their findings: comets contain a mix of materials that formed under widely divergent conditions.

Read more at SCIENCE NEWS -Deep Impact Reveals Comet's Components

Despite Balky Sensor, Venus Express Ready for Operations

Monday, July 17, 2006

Paris - Europe's Venus Express satellite, which entered Venus orbit in April, has cleared its commissioning phase and is ready to begin formal operations despite the fact that one of its seven observing instruments is not functioning, the European Space Agency (ESA) said July 12.

Venus Express satellite
Venus Express satellite
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The Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS), which encountered problems in May, is stuck in "closed" position despite weeks of efforts to return the instrument to operations, ESA said.

"[A] series of activities and further in-orbit tests [will] be conducted in the next months, as well as a series of independent investigations, to examine the origin of the problem," ESA said in a July 12 statement on Venus Express' status. "In the meantime, other instruments will cover some of the PFS objectives."

The PFS is designed to measure Venus' surface and atmospheric temperature. Part of its mission is to hunt for volcanic activity on the planet.

Venus Express was launched in November 2005 and entered Venus orbit in April, after which it began adjusting its position to arrive at the highly elliptical orbit in which it will operate. The satellite will view Venus from distances of between 66,000 kilometers and 250 kilometers.

Credit: Space.com, Peter de Selding--Despite Balky Sensor, Venus Express Ready for Operations

Voyager 2 Detects Odd Shape of Solar System's Edge

Friday, May 26, 2006

VoyagerVoyager 2 could pass beyond the outermost layer of our solar system, called the "termination shock," sometime within the next year. The milestone, which comes about a year after Voyager 1's crossing, comes earlier than expected and suggests to scientists that the edge of the shock is about one billion miles closer to the Sun in the southern region of the solar system than in the north.
This implies that the heliosphere, a spherical bubble of charged low-energy particles created by our Sun's solar wind, is irregularly shaped, bulging in the northern hemisphere and pressed inward in the south.
Scientists determined that Voyager 1 was approaching the termination shock when it began detecting charged particles that were being pushed back toward the Sun by charged particles coming from outside our solar system. This occurred when Voyager 1 was about 85 AU from the Sun.
One AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun, or 93 million miles.
In contrast, Voyager 2 began detecting returning particles while only 76 AU from the Sun.
"This tells us that the shock down where Voyager 2 is must be closer the sun than where Voyager 1 is," said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
The researchers think that the heliosphere's asymmetry might be due to a weak interstellar magnetic field pressing inward on the southern hemisphere.
"The [magnetic] field is only 1/100,000 of the field on the Earth's surface, but it's over such a large area and pushing on such a faint gas that it can actually push the shock about a billion miles in," Stone explained.

credit: Space.com, Ker Than

NASA Reinstates the Dawn Mission

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

NASA senior management announced a decision Monday to reinstate the Dawn mission, a robotic exploration of two major asteroids. Dawn had been canceled because of technical problems and cost overruns.

The mission, named because it was designed to study objects dating from the dawn of the solar system, would travel to Vesta and Ceres, two of the largest asteroids orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn will use an electric ion propulsion system and orbit multiple objects.

The mission originally was approved in December 2001 and was set for launch in June 2006. Technical problems and other difficulties delayed the projected launch date to July 2007 and pushed the cost from its original estimate of $373 million to $446 million. The decision to cancel Dawn was made March 2, 2006, after about $257 million already had been spent. An additional expenditure of about $14 million would have been required to terminate the project.

The reinstatement resulted from a review process that is part of new management procedures established by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. The process is intended to help ensure open debate and thorough evaluation of major decisions regarding space exploration and agency operations.

"We revisited a number of technical and financial challenges and the work being done to address them," said NASA Associate Administrator Rex Geveden, who chaired the review panel. "Our review determined the project team has made substantive progress on many of this mission's technical issues, and, in the end, we have confidence the mission will succeed."

The Dawn decision document will be available on the Web at:http://www.nasa.gov/formedia

Story Credit: NASA-Erica Hupp/Dean Acosta

Dawn Mission Killed

Friday, March 3, 2006

Dawn mission
The mission would have studied the asteroids Ceres and Vesta, both relics from the early solar system

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Artist's impression: W Hartmann/JPL/NASA
In early February, Dawn principal investigator Christopher Russell, at the University of California Los Angeles, said "We were going full bore toward launch, running as fast as we could. We saw the finish line in sight and then someone shot the gun and said we're cancelling the race for a bit."

Apparently the mission was stopped after a US congressional hearing on NASA's science budget, reports NASAWatch.com, a website run by former NASA employee Keith Cowing.

Both asteroids were thought to be remnants of the first objects formed in the solar system. But they show mysterious differences in their structures – Vesta has melted and separated into layers, while Ceres has not. Dawn was to probe these differences, using close-range scrutiny.

The decision to cancel the mission came after ,more than a month, the agency was expected to complete an extensive review of the mission's progress. In October 2005, NASA ordered Dawn managers to stop work on the mission, citing excessive technical problems and a budget overrun.

More: Dawn asteroid mission killed.
Story Credit: NewScientist.com news service; Kimm Groshong

Deep Impact Team Reports First Evidence of Cometary Ice

Friday, March 3, 2006

Comet Tempel 1, which created a flamboyant Fourth of July fireworks display in space last year, is covered with a small amount of water ice. These results, reported by members of NASA’s Deep Impact team in an advanced online edition of Science, offer the first definitive evidence of surface ice on any comet.

“We have known for a long time that water ice exists in comets, but this is the first evidence of water ice on comets,” said Jessica Sunshine, Deep Impact co-investigator and lead author of the Science article. Tempel I A chief scientist with Science Applications International Corporation who holds three Brown University degrees, Sunshine said the discovery offers important insight into the composition of comets – small, Sun-orbiting space travelers that are believed to be leftovers from the formation of the solar system.

“Understanding a comet’s water cycle and supply is critical to understanding these bodies as a system and as a possible source that delivered water to Earth,” she said. “Add the large organic component in comets and you have two of the key ingredients for life.”

More: NASA - Deep Impact Team Reports First Evidence of Cometary Ice

How We'll Get Back to the Moon

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Before the end of the next decade, NASA astronauts will again explore the surface of the moon. And

this time, we're going to stay, building outposts and paving the way for eventual journeys to Mars and

Artist's concept of NASA's new crew exploration vehicle in lunar orbit.
Credit: NASA: John Frassanito and Associates
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beyond. There are echoes of the iconic images of the past, but it won't be your grandfather's moon shot.

Image left: NASA's new crew exploration vehicle in lunar orbit. Click to enlarge. Artist's concept by John Frassanito and Associates.

This journey begins soon, with development of a new spaceship. Building on the best of Apollo and shuttle technology, NASA's creating a 21st century exploration system that will be affordable, reliable, versatile, and safe.

The centerpiece of this system is a new spacecraft designed to carry four astronauts to and from the moon, support up to six crewmembers on future missions to Mars, and deliver crew and supplies to the International Space Station.

The new crew vehicle will be shaped like an Apollo capsule, but it will be three times larger, allowing four astronauts to travel to the moon at a time.

Coupled with the new lunar lander, the system sends twice as many astronauts to the surface as Apollo, and they can stay longer, with the initial missions lasting four to seven days. And while Apollo was limited to landings along the moon's equator, the new ship carries enough propellant to land anywhere on the moon's surface.

Once a lunar outpost is established, crews could remain on the lunar surface for up to six months. The spacecraft can also operate without a crew in lunar orbit, eliminating the need for one astronaut to stay behind while others explore the surface.

More:NASA How We'll Get Back to the Moon

Disembodied Space Suit

Monday, January 30, 2006

Using a simple police scanner or ham radio, you can listen to a disembodied spacesuit circling Earth.

January 26, 2006: One of the strangest satellites in the history of the space age is about to go into orbit. Launch date: Feb. 3rd. That's when astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) will hurl an empty spacesuit overboard.

SuitSat in Flight Configuaration
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The spacesuit is the satellite -- "SuitSat" for short.

"SuitSat is a Russian brainstorm," explains Frank Bauer of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "Some of our Russian partners in the ISS program, mainly a group led by Sergey Samburov, had an idea: Maybe we can turn old spacesuits into useful satellites." SuitSat is a first test of that idea.

"We've equipped a Russian Orlan spacesuit with three batteries, a radio transmitter, and internal sensors to measure temperature and battery power," says Bauer. "As SuitSat circles Earth, it will transmit its condition to the ground."

Unlike a normal spacewalk, with a human inside the suit, SuitSat's temperature controls will be turned off to conserve power. The suit, arms and legs akimbo, possibly spinning, will be exposed to the fierce rays of the sun with no way to regulate its internal temperature.

"Will the suit overheat? How long will the batteries last? Can we get a clear transmission if the suit tumbles?" wonders Bauer. These are some of the questions SuitSat will answer, laying the groundwork for SuitSats of the future.


Continue reading "Disembodied Space Suit"

New Horizons Launch

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

New Horizons Launch
Liftoff of the Atlas V carrying NASA's New Horizons spacecraft to a distant date with Pluto!
Image credit: NASA/KSC
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After launch aboard a Lockheed-Martin Atlas V rocket, the New Horizons spacecraft set out on a journey to the edge of the solar system. Liftoff occurred Jan. 19, 2006 at 2:00:00 p.m. EST from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. New Horizons is headed for a distant rendezvous with the mysterious planet Pluto almost a decade from now.

As the first spacecraft to visit Pluto and its moon Charon, New Horizons looks to unlock one of the solar system's last, great planetary secrets. The New Horizons spacecraft will cross the entire span of the solar system and conduct flyby studies of Pluto and Charon in 2015. The seven science instruments on the piano-sized probe will shed light on the bodies' surface properties, geology, interior makeup and atmospheres.

More: NASA -New Horizons Heads for Pluto

Stardust Canister Opened: 'A Huge Success'

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Stardust
Stardust Canister Opened
Credit: space.com/Leonard David

Fresh from its fall to Earth last weekend, the Stardust sample return capsule has been opened in a cleanroom at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas.

“It exceeds all expectations,” said Donald Brownlee, Stardust’s lead scientist from the University of Washington, Seattle. “It’s a huge success,” he explained in a University of Washington statement released today.

“We can see lots of impacts. There are big ones, there are small ones. The big ones you can see from 10 feet away,” Brownlee observed.

A preliminary estimation is that there might be more than a million microscopic specks of dust embedded in Stardust’s aerogel-laden collector. Furthermore, it appears—from the size of the carrot-shaped impact tracks in the aerogel—that there are about 10 particles of 100 microns in size.

More: space.com - Stardust Canister Opened


Deep Impact Success

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

The image depicts the first moments after Deep Impact's probe interfaced with comet Tempel 1. More...

This image was taken by Deep Impact's high-resolution camera. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD
After 172 days and 431 million kilometers (268 million miles) of deep space stalking, Deep Impact successfully reached out and touched comet Tempel 1. The collision between the coffee table-sized impactor and city-sized comet occurred at 1:52 a.m. EDT.

"What a way to kick off America's Independence Day," said Deep Impact Project Manager Rick Grammier of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "The challenges of this mission and teamwork that went into making it a success, should make all of us very proud."

"This mission is truly a smashing success," said Andy Dantzler, director of NASA's Solar System Division. "Tomorrow and in the days ahead we will know a lot more about the origins of our solar system."

More: NASA/JPL - Deep Impact Kicks Off Fourth of July with Deep Space Fireworks

Link: NASA/JPL - Deep Impact Mission Web Site