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Friday, August 31, 2007

Russians to Build Moon Base

Simulation of the famed N-1 Russian moon rocket.
Russia's federal space agency Roskosmos has indicated that the nation will seek to place cosmonauts on the moon by 2025 and build a permanent lunar base between 2027 and 2032 where cosmonauts could strike out on a long-planned mission to Mars as early as 2035, according to a report from the British Telegraph.

There are plans for a new space center in the country, but a site has not yet been selected, he said. Russia currently launches all manned flights from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. Construction of a new launch facility would only begin after a new type of spacecraft was built, reports NOVOSTI.

While the United States is planning a return to the moon by 2020 [2-min vid] and a permanent lunar base [10-min vid], the only human landings on the lunar surface occured between 1969 and 1972 for short-term stays before the Apollo program was terminated.

In short months ahead, Japan, China, India and the United States will send unmanned probes to remote sense the lunar surface for mineral mapping purposes.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

SpaceX Dragon Passes NASA Test

SpaceX has successfully completed the first of three phases of review required by NASA's Safety Review Panel (SRP) to send its Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). Over a series of meetings spanning four days at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, the team of SpaceX engineers developing the Dragon spacecraft presented their Phase I plans for sending the cargo version of Dragon to the $100 billion dollar orbiting space laboratory.

The NASA review covered twenty-three specific hazards, with extra attention paid to the danger of collision -- one of the most difficult hazards to mitigate. The issue of preventing a collision with the ISS was a primary topic of the safety review, and is generally considered one of the more difficult visiting vehicle topics. According to the Safety Review Panel's approval letter, the Phase I collision hazard report for Dragon was approved on the first attempt.

"To date, no other group has passed the Hazard of Collision report the first time through or completed the overall review in such a short time," said Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX. "The fact that we passed in under a week speaks well of our team's capabilities."

As part of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) competition, SpaceX intends to demonstrate its launch, maneuvering and docking abilities by 2009 -- a year before NASA has scheduled the conclusion of Space Shuttle operations.

The Dragon spacecraft is designed to transport up to seven astronauts, as well as both pressurized and unpressurized cargo, to Earth orbit and back. Dragon's universal docking adapter allows it to interface with all current ISS docking/berthing systems, as well as future systems under development.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

E'Prime Aerospace Selects Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport

E'Prime Aerospace Corporation (EPEO), a U.S. company with more than 2,000 shareholders and based in Titusville, Florida, announced August 27th the selection of Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority's Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) as E'Prime's Launch site for the Canister Launch Program and E'Prime's engagement of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA/AST) for a Launch License to operate from MARS.

Monday, August 27, 2007

2007 X-PRIZE CUP Promo

The X-PRIZE CUP is to be held October 26-28, 2007 at the Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico [video promo] in celebration of forward-looking technology, space exploration and education. Added is a video tribute to the F-117 at Holloman AFB near White Sands National Monument. The F-117 "Night Hawk" has made fly-over appearences at the 2005 and 2006 X-PRIZE CUP. At the 2007 X-PRIZE CUP, the F-117 will be joined by the F-22 Raptor [video 1] and [video 2].

Space Review Looks at V-PRIZE

French journalist Paul de Brem today reported on the V-PRIZE in an article in The Space Review reprinted from Le Journal du Dimanche earlier this month.

The US military is thinking Mach 20 point-to-point suborbital flights [animation]. With the 2003 retirement of the civil Supersonic Concorde fleet [video], only the Space Shuttle has current capability of ocean crossing point-to-point hypersonic winged flight. Nonetheless, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is proceeding with the test of NASA's Hy-BoLT in 2008.

University of North Dakota to Offer Live Webcast of Eclipse

The March lunar eclipse as seen from Paris, France.
The University of North Dakota is sponosring a LIVE lunar eclipse webcast. Click here or here as a part of its Sun, Earth, Moon System (SEMS) Project. Photos of the eclipse will be posted on SpaceWeather.com.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

LIVE LUNAR ECLIPSE OBSERVATION FROM AUSTRALIA

March 3, 2007 lunar eclipse from Stonehinge, U.K., BBC.
On Tuesday, (Monday on the East Coast of the US), the Discovery Channel will be providing LIVE coverage of the lunar eclipse [03.03.07 vid] for users with Microsoft Windows from three Australian Observatories, August 28. The program will feature three introductory clips describing the science of the event. While watching the eclipse [vid], visitors to the site will be able to participate in a live chat (in English) with Andre Clayden from Springbrook Research Observatory in Queensland, Australia.

The live digital stream eclipse programming should start at 4 PM Monday in the Eastern US Time Zone. Discovery programming in North America will begin at 7:00 PM, Tuesday, August 28.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Cassini Prepares for Double-Flyby the moons Rhea and Titan

Saturn's two largest moons meet in the sky in a rare embrace. Smog-enshrouded Titan (5,150 kilometers, or 3,200 miles across) glows to the left of airless Rhea (1,528 kilometers, or 949 miles across). Cassini will fly-by both late this month.

The NASA spacecraft Cassini, in orbit around Saturn, is positioned for back-to-back fly-bys of the moons Rhea and then Titan August 30 and 31. First up, on Aug. 30, the spacecraft flies within 5,737 kilometers (3,565 miles) of Saturn's second largest moon, Rhea. The icy moon provides a stark contrast to the atmosphere-rich Titan, which gets its close up this time from 3,326 kilometers (2,066 miles) the next day. These fly-bys set up a close encounter with Iapetus on Sept. 10, 2007.

Cosmic Void Found by VLA

Astronomers using the Very Large Array near Socorro, New Mexico have located a huge space void of 'cosmic nothingness' devoid of any matter whatsoever and nearly a billion light years across according to a paper released in the Astrophysical Journal.

"If you were to travel at the speed of light, it would take you several years to get to the nearest stars in our own Milky Way galaxy; but if you were to go to this hole and enter one side, you'd have to travel for a billion years before you would get to the other side," Minnesota's Professor Lawrence Rudnick told BBC News.

Known as the "WMAP Cold Spot," [PDF] the void is "empty of both normal matter such as stars, galaxies, and gas, and the mysterious, unseen 'dark matter,'" according to a National Radio Astronomy Observatory press release. "While earlier studies have shown holes in the large-scale fabric of the cosmos, this new discovery dwarfs them all" reports the Daily Telegraph.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hubble Space Telescope Snags Rare View of Uranus Rings

A rare image of the ring system of the planet Uranus has been captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, using the onboard JPL-built and designed Wide Field Planetary Camera 2.

The view, tilted edge-on to Earth, was photographed on August 14, 2007. Earthbound astronomers only see the rings' edge every 42 years as the planet follows a leisurely 84-year orbit about the sun. However, the last time the Uranus rings were tilted edge-on to Earth, astronomers didn't even know they existed.

STS-125 Atlantis is being scheduled to save and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope [Ppt.] on Sept. 10, 2008.

NFIRE TEST A SUCCESS

The Near Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE) has been deemed a success as the spacecraft satellite passed an important tracking test early Thursday morning with a boost-phase data-collection experiment essential to developing an eventual boost-phase anti-ballistic missile defense interception capability.

A modified Minuteman II booster vehicle, the Chimera, was fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. silo, at about 1:30 a.m. PDT and was then "successfully tracked by the NFIRE satellite," the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said in a statement.

"This exercise provided an opportunity for the NFIRE satellite to collect high- and low-resolution images of a boosting rocket that will improve understanding of missile exhaust plume observations and plume-to-rocket body discrimination. Data from the NFIRE satellite was downlinked to the Missile Defense Space Experimentation Center at the Missile Defense Integration & Operations Center at Schriever AFB, Colo.," the MDA said.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

NFIRE Test Re-Set for Thursday

The Minotaur II TLV NFIRE-2a slated to be launched from the Vandenberg AFB in California has again been RE-SET for Thursday between 1 AM and 5 AM. The vehicle, when launched, is to serve as a target for the Near Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE) satellite. NFIRE will observe the launch from orbit to gather data during the Minotaur's boost phase. There is no live launch coverage.

On April 24 the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia successfully lofted the US Missile Defense Agency's Near Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE), the second orbital launch from the spaceport within a year with the first being TacSat 2. The recent delay of the Vandenberg AFB launch is so that program officials can continue to optimize data collection equipment on board the orbiting NFIRE satellite.

Program officials want to be very precise in preparing for the missile launch due to the fact that the overall objective is to collect as much data as possible from the boosting missile. The collected data will subsequently be used in the development effort for boost phase missile defense technology, which will help to develop missile defense systems capable of shooting down a hostile ballistic missile within the first few minutes after it is launched.

NFIRE is a low-Earth orbiting, 494 kg (1,089 lbs) satellite with an onboard Track Sensor Payload (TSP) and TESAT Laser Communications Terminal (LCT) as the primary payloads. The spacecraft is part of MDA's Kinetic Energy Boost-Phase research program. NFIRE will gather near-field, high-resolution phenomenology data that will assist in the development of boost-phase intercept systems.

The NFIRE spacecraft has a 2-year design life, during which various data collection missions will be conducted, including gathering data during the flight of launch vehicles during their boost phase. As part of this testing, the next two Minotaur II target vehicles will be launched from Vandenberg later this year starting this month.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Endeavour Lands at Kennedy

The Space Shuttle Endeavour landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:32 PM today to avoid any inclement weather conditions resulting from Hurricane Dean now making land in the Gulf of Mexico after a very successful two-week mission to the International Space Station. Educator-turned-astronaut Barb Morgan was "a little under the weather" as she became reacquainted with the effects of gravity after 14 days of weightlessness opting not appear with the other six crew members for photos on the Kennedy Space Center runway after landing.

STS-120 Discovery is targed for launch in late October, NASA said.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Once in A Red Moon Coming August 28 - This Is No Hoax!

A Total Lunar Eclipse will occur on Tuesday, August 28, 2007 across the United States. The Moon will cross into the Earth's shadow and will undergo its second total eclipse in 2007. While West Coast sky viewers will get the best show, in the East the eclipse will begin around dawn and will still be in progress when the Sun rises and the Moon sets, two events that happen almost simultaneously on a lunar eclipse night. Here is the hoax.

The next lunar eclipse will be on a chilly night of February 21, 2008 as three Earthly nations --- Japan, India, and China --- have spacecraft orbiting for remote sensing and mapping the details of our nearest neighbor.

That Darn Fuel Tank!

NASA will delay the Oct. 23, 2007 and December 6, 2007 launch of STS-120 Discovery and STS-122 Atlantis because of continuous problems with the fuel tank. The manager of the shuttle program said late on Monday that engineers will redesign that part of the tank, and that the planned late October launch of Discovery will have to be delayed. Engineers are now going back to their drawing boards, and wind tunnels, hoping to fix the spot where the foam keeps coming off. What impact the delays will have on the launch manifest and ISS construction are now uncertain.

30-Years Ago Today Voyagers Left Earth to Expand Knowledge


National Public Radio paid tribute to the Voyager 1 and 2 that departed Earth on the 'Grand Tour' of the solar system visiting Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and many of their moons prior the much longer trek through the Oort Cloud and the Heliosphere. NPR pays tribute to the music aboard the spacecraft awaiting alien ears to hear. Voyager 1 and 2 are now more than 7.5 BILLION miles into a trek that will take it into the Milky Way over the many years. Hear more of the music here and here and here.

Friday, August 17, 2007

NASA Opts Out of Shuttle Repair

NASA has opted out of a repair spacewalk to fix a divt in a the space shuttle Endeavour's heat shield after a week long review of the debris impact saying that it was not a threat to the shuttle and its crew and is unlikely to cause further damage to Endeavour during its fiery return to Earth next week.

The gash occurred when insulating foam and possibly ice from the shuttle fuel tank struck Endeavour's underside as it launched from Florida on August 8 on a construction mission to the International Space Station.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Teacher-Turned-Astronaut Morgan Receives Challenger Center's Highest Honor

Barbara R. Morgan, NASA educator astronaut and STS-118 Endeavor mission specialist, was honored Wednesday, Aug. 15, for her 20-year commitment to keeping the spirit of education as an integral part of the NASA space program.

Bill Gutsch, president and chief executive officer of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, and June Scobee Rodgers, founding chairman, presented Morgan with the Challenger Center's President George H.W. Bush Award. Jim Stofan, NASA deputy assistant administrator for education programs, and Linus Guillory, education specialist, accepted the award on behalf of Morgan, who is currently aboard the International Space Station.

Morgan will personally accept the award once she has returned toEarth. "With this award, we commemorate her historic flight, honor her dedication to the teaching profession and acknowledge her commitment to the mission of the Challenger Center," said Gutsch.

The award was first given to President George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush in 1995. The award was then named after former President Bush and is the Challenger Center's highest honor. Only those who display exceptional leadership and who contribute significantly to the center'smission to inspire students to learn and explore receive this honor.

Morgan joined the Astronaut Corps in 1998 as the first educator astronaut. Educator astronauts are teachers and permanent members of theastronaut corps who have been selected by NASA to train to become fully qualified astronauts. Educator astronauts bring to NASA a teacher's perspective, knowledge and skills. Morgan is one of four educator astronauts and has been a long-time member of the Challenger Center Council of Advisors. Through STS-118, she is contributing to NASA's mission of inspiring the next generation of explorers.

Thursday Morgan told those assembled at the Challenger Center that "I think the shuttle program is an A-plus," she said. "Once we don't have the shuttle any more I think it's going to be something that we all look back on with great nostalgia and we're really, really going to miss it."

2007 X-Cup Personal Spaceflight Symposium Set for Oct 24 and 25

Veteran space travelers and leaders of the emerging commercial spaceflight industry will gather in Las Cruces, N.M., Oct. 24 and 25 for the third annual International Symposium for Personal Spaceflight (ISPS 2007).

Two days of presentations, panel discussions and interview sessions will cover topics ranging from vehicles and launch systems to space tourism and spaceports. The theme of the symposium, presented by New Mexico State University and the X PRIZE Foundation, is "Our Next Giant Leap: Progress and Next Steps."

"The symposium is the best way to meet the space explorers and the people developing the vehicles and systems to launch this next giant leap in transportation." said Patricia Hynes, director of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium at NMSU and organizer of the symposium. "Here in New Mexico we have begun the first steps toward creating the platform for the success of commercial spaceflight in Spaceport America."

Robert A. Dickman, executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), will serve as master of ceremonies for the event. The AIAA is a professional technical society with more than 35,000 members in 79 countries. Dickman is a retired Air Force major general.

Confirmed participants include Anousheh Ansari, who became the world's first female private space explorer when she spent $20 million to fly to the International Space Station last September. She will discuss her experience in a session on space tourism.

Ansari provided the title sponsorship for the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million cash award for the first nongovernmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks - a prize captured in 2004 by aerospace designer Burt Rutan.

The symposium's opening session will feature Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), which is designing and building a launch vehicle and spaceship to transport cargo and then astronauts to the International Space Station; Clayton Mowry, president of Arianespace Inc. (USA), the world's leading satellite launch company; and Alex Tai, vice president for operations for Virgin Galactic, which will use New Mexico's Spaceport America as a base for space tourism flights.

ISPS 2007 will be held at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces, which proved popular as the venue for last year's symposium. The Wirefly X PRIZE Cup "rocket festival" will follow on Oct. 27 and 28 at nearby Holloman Air Force Base. This is the third year that the symposium has preceded the annual X PRIZE competition.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Barb Morgan Teaches from Space

Barb Morgan, the teacher-turned-astronaut , provides a lesson (Audio in Real Player) from space to studentsat the Discovery Center in Boise, Idaho.

After one child asked about exercising in space, Mrs Morgan pretended to strain as she lifted two large crew members floating either side of her. Another wanted to see a demonstration of drinking in space and the astronauts obliged by squeezing bubbles from a drinking pouch and swallowing the floating blobs of liquid.

"Astronauts and teachers actually do the same thing. We explore, we discover and we share. And the great thing about being a teacher is you get to do that with students, and the great thing about being an astronaut is you get to do it in space, and those are absolutely wonderful jobs." The New York Times provides more detail.

Morgan will link with the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, in Virginia Aug. 16, 2007, at 8:51 a.m. EDT and may be seen on NASA TV. CCSSE is a not-for-profit educational organization founded by the families of the astronauts who died during the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. The family members and CCSSE have developed a network of 49 Challenger Learning Centers across the nation.

Bob Werb is chairman of the board of Space Frontier Foundation today published an opinion piece on the idea of teachers in space.

JAXA to Launch Moon Probe Sept. 13 to Win the Asian Race

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency announced today that the launch of the Lunar Orbit Explorer KAGUYA (SELENE) by H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 13 (H-IIA F13) was rescheduled September 13 (Thursday), 2007 for 10:35:47 a.m (Japan Standard Time, JST).

The original launch date was postponed due to the replacement work of parts in the two onboard baby satellites of the "KAGUYA" as announced on July 20, 2007. The replacement was successfully completed thus the new launch date was set.

China's Chang'e No. 1 and India's Chandrayaan-1 are also planning treks to the moon in 2007 to be joined by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to be launched by the United States in 2008.

Japan may beat China and win the so-called Asian Space Race.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

White House Calls for Landsat Extention & New Management

The Bush White House has issued a 120-page report calling for a new management structure to coordinate a space-based land imaging program known as LANDSAT.

The report, entitled A Plan for a U.S. National Land Imaging Program, provides a new framework for continuing the long term collection of photographic, infrared and other multispectral remote sensing data for the globe. The report recommends an interagency council to oversee the effort and a program office at the Interior Department to provide focused leadership and management for the nation’s civil land imaging efforts.

U.S. Landsat spacecraft have been collecting moderate-resolution imagery of the Earth's landmasses continuously since the early 1970s. The two Landsat spacecraft in orbit today are nearing the end of their operational lives and may not last until a successor, dubbed the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, is launched in 2011, reports Space News (subsrciption only).

“We understand and acknowledge the need for a long-term plan to develop technical, financial, and managerial stability for the U.S. National Land Imaging Program,” Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said.

“We look forward to working with the Congress, other federal agencies and private-sector partners to ensure the United States maintains its civil land imaging capabilities and can meet the nation’s future needs for this vital information.”

Since 1972, U.S. Landsat satellites have provided millions of moderate resolution images of the planet’s surface. Responsibility for developing, launching, and managing the satellites has historically moved among agencies. The National Land Imaging Program will ensure a consistent planning process for future imaging missions, the report states. Land imaging data serve government, commercial, industrial, civilian, military, and educational communities in the United States and worldwide.

October 24 Space Shuttle Discovery Launch Delayed?

NASA is now considering a launch delay of STS-120 Discovery that is now planned for October 24th as a result of the serious tile divot on Space Shuttle Endeavour now in orbit.

Engineers believe ice that formed in the bracket played a role in popping off insulation from the spot 58 seconds into Endeavour's launch Aug. 8. The insulation, possibly mixed with ice, bounced off the shuttle ET aft attachment frame and flew into the belly, where it left three inconsequential dings and the deeper gouge that is raising concern.

NASA now must decide if it should delay the flight until brackets holding the 17-inch oxygen feed line are modified to prevent ice buildup like that implicated in the insulation impact damage to Endeavour.

STS-120 Discovery is to take the U.S. Node 2 called 'Harmony' to orbit as a part of the continuing International Space Station construction. A delay of shuttle flights to fix the external tank would be a serious setback to the flight schedule. The shuttle is to be retired in late 2010.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bigelow Go for Sundancer Space Station

Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas, Nevada has announced today that it is proceeding with the first human (manned) orbital space module, the Sundancer building upon th erecent success of two orbiting platforms, the Genesis-1 and Genesis-2. See the KLAS-TV news video.

"The future of entrepreneurial, private sector-driven space habitats and complexes could be arriving much earlier than any of us had previously anticipated, says Robert T. Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace. "We have decided to expedite our schedule yet again, and are now planning to move ahead directly with Bigelow Aerospace’s first human habitable spacecraft, the Sundancer."

Bigelow, in an August 13 press announcement, pointed to the firm's recent orbits of two small space stations and higher global launch costs as logic to skip the Galaxy test program and go directly to the Sundancer.

"With this decision made, the future of entrepreneurial, private sector-driven space habitats and complexes could be arriving much earlier than any of us had previously anticipated. While recognizing the inherent difficulty, all of us at BA are eager to begin work on an actual human spaceflight program, which is the reason that I and others began this effort in the first place, " Bigelow said.

No launch date was announced today but in the past Bigelow has said the Sundancer offers 180 cubic meters of habitable space, fully-equipped with life support systems, attitude control, on-orbit maneuverability, as well as reboost and de-orbit capability. This larger module--sporting a trio of windows--could support a three-person crew and be on-orbit in a late 2009-2010 time frame.

Sundancer would go to orbit aborad either a Falcon 9 launcher from SpaceX, a Ukrainian/Russian Zenit, or an Atlas-V booster.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

European Commercial Space Hotel Venture Ready by 2012?

SPACEPORTS: A Barcelona, Spain-based multibillion dollar venture called Galactic Suite says it will open a space hotel by 2012 enabling space tourists to remit $4+ million for a 3-day stay aboard the orbital equivalent of a three-bedroom boutique hotel, according to various reports.

The ticket price would include 18 weeks of preparation for space on a tropical island, the flight to space and back, three nights in a hotel 450 kilometres from the earth in space, and would allow guests to travel around the world in 80 minutes, so in 24 hours the sun will rise and set behind our planet 15 times.

Xavier Claramunt, who runs Catalan company Galactic Suite Projects, estimates around 40,000 people in the world will be rich enough to buy a capsule at the hotel. The design would be capable of accommodating 350 guests a year.

"There is fear associated with going into space," said Claramunt. "That's why the shuttle rocket will remain fixed to the space hotel for the duration of the guests' stay, so they know they can get home again."

Private investors from the United, the United Arab Emirates and Japan are in talks in joining the Barcelona-based project. It is reported that a space enthusiast has decided to make the science fiction fantasy a reality by fronting most of the $3 billion needed to build the hotel. MORE IMAGES of the design for Galactic Suite .

Friday, August 10, 2007

Endeavour Damaged

The damaged heat shield has a 3-inch gash causing alarm on Space Shuttle Endeavour.

NASA is investigating a three-inch gouge in a six-inch tile under the space shuttle Endeavour's starboard wing. New video shows something — possibly ice — hitting the shuttle 58 seconds into its launch on Wednesday. Photography and video taken by the crew on the International Space Station during Endeavour's approach to the station confirmed suspicions.

Nine pieces of foam insulation broke off Endeavour's fuel tank during the Wednesday launch, and three pieces appeared to strike the shuttle. One hit was confirmed by the video taken by the space station crew.

On Sunday, the space shuttle crew will use the orbiter boom sensor on the end of the shuttle's robotic arm to go under the shuttle and inspect the damage to give analysts more information about the gouge.

While it is too soon to weigh extreme options, NASA has the Launch on Need (LON) STS-322 Discovery rescue mission being readied for October 5. A recent video weigh the extreme options resulting from the 2003 loss of Space Shuttle Columbia.

NPR Interview With Elon Musk

NPR science correspondent David Kestenbaum interviews SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on the August 9 Morning edition ---give a listen.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"On the Wings of a Legacy" --- Endeavour Launches! More Teachers to Apply for Space

Endeavor leaves the pad. Collect Space photo.
The STS-118 Endeavour launch [video] went without a hitch and on-time with teacher-in-space Barbara Morgan. Mission profile video.

Just prior to Barbara Morgan's launch to space, the Space Frontier Foundation and the United States Rocket Academy announced that the new Teachers in Space effort will begin accepting applications from teachers this October.

"We congratulate Barbara Morgan on the beginning of this historic voyage," said Space Frontier Foundation Executive Director Jeff Krukin. "NASA is keeping a commitment to education that was made more than 20 years ago. Now, we need to take the next step. The Educator Astronaut program takes a teacher out of the classroom to join the NASA astronaut corps. Our goal is to let many teachers experience spaceflight and return to American classrooms to educate and inspire the next generation."

"We're returning to that original vision," said Teachers in Space project manager Edward Wright," and expanding on it. The average teacher touches thousands of students during a teaching career. Imagine the impact of hundreds or even thousands of astronaut teachers, men and women who have been to space, in American schools. For 40 years, we've held forth the false promise that if students studied math and science, they would have a chance to go into space. A student still has a better chance of playing professional basketball than flying as a NASA astronaut.

"Today, we're changing that. Private companies are developing a new generation of reusable suborbital vehicles that promise dramatic reductions in the cost of human spaceflight. We are working with leading suborbital companies. When they're ready to fly, we will have teachers who are trained and ready to go."

The rules for the first competition will be announced at the Wirefly X-PRIZE Cup on October 26-28, and where applications will be accepted for teachers to fly in space.
Here the THUNDER of Endeavour 1, 2, and 3.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Shuttle Endeavour Countdown Commences for Launch

The Space Shuttle Endeavour countdown commenced Sunday at 8 PM EST at the Kennedy spaceport for a Wednesday, August 8, 6:36 p.m. EDT launch time from pad 39A. There is only a 30% chance that isolated showers or anvil clouds that could prevent a launch. This prediction remains the same in the event of a 24-hour delay.

The 22nd flight to the International Space Station, STS-118 will be the first flight for Endeavour since 2002, and the first mission for Mission Specialist Barbara Morgan, the teacher-turned-astronaut whose association with NASA began more than 20 years ago.

The seven member crew of Endeavour will commence an 11-to-14 day mission to further assemble the international orbiting space laboratory with a NASA spokesperson saying: "There's a little bit of assembly, there's some re-supply, there's some repairs and there are some high-visibility education and public affairs events."

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Phoenix Mission Lifts-Off to Mars

Phoenix Mars Mission blasted off Saturday, aiming for a May 25, 2008, arrival at the Red Planet and a close-up examination of the surface of the northern polar region. Video of lift-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base at 5:26 a.m. Eastern Time into the predawn sky above Florida's Atlantic coast.

Videos 1 (great thunder), 2 (set to music), and 3 (NASA feed) are all of the launch. Video 4 and 5 are animations; and, 6 is a mission profile of the trek to Mars.

Phoenix will be the first mission to touch water-ice on Mars. Its robotic arm will dig to an icy layer believed to lie just beneath the surface. The mission will study the history of the water in the ice, monitor weather of the polar region, and investigate whether the subsurface environment in the far-northern plains of Mars has ever been favorable for sustaining microbial life.

'Armageddon' Spacecraft Being Developed by NASA Marshall in Alabama

A NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Asteroid Interceptor has been designed for a 2020 test launch aboard a new Ares V booster rocket in the event the United States must lead the world in the fight against a space rock that could kill life on Earth in the future, according to Flight International.

The interceptor 'cradle' could carry as many as six nuclear tipped missile-like interceptor vehicles that would each carry one 1.2MT B83 nuclear warhead to break-up or standoff the near-Earth object (NEO) that is known as 99942 Apophis asteroid. Apophis will pass by the Earth within the orbit of the Moon in April 2029. Apophis is the Greek name of the Ancient Egyptian god Apep, "the Destroyer", who dwells in the eternal darkness of the Duat (underworld) and tries to destroy the Sun during its nightly passage.

In a report earlier this year, made public only after a Freedom of Information Act request, NASA says that "the nuclear interceptor option can deflect NEOs of [100-500m diameter] two years before impact, and larger NEOs with at least five years warning".

The United Nations is beginning to think about asteroid deflection and mitigation. Orbit of nuclear asteroid weapons by the United States would violate Article IV the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. However, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space [COPUOS] is slated to begin discussion of an asteroid strike mitigation framework in the spring of 2009.

Dr. David Morrison [profile] of NASA Ames and Dr. Mike Gaffey of the University of North Dakota Department of Space Studies spent the past week discussing asteroid deflection and mitigation [video] with a number of University of North Dakota Space Studies graduate research students. The adult students had studied the problem for nine months (which this blogger was among one of the study teams).

The graduate-level capstone studies focused on the nuclear option [video] such as one recently adopted by NASA. Others looked an options ranging from a gravity tractor to commercial asteroid mining. There was also a discussion of the need for funds to expand NASA's NEO search.

One graduate student noted the NEO Impactor software of Dr. Nick Bailey and the nations he claims are potentially at-risk. Others noted the power of the 1908 Tunguska Event [video].

An asteroid strike will happen again. "It is just a question of when?" [video]. NASA now appears to be planning an 'Armageddon' mission over the next twenty years. A number of interesting treks to the asteroids demand attention.

Barbara Morgan to Link w/Challenger Center in Alexandria, Virginia

The Challenger Center is one of three sites chosen to have a 20-minute live question-and-answer downlink session with Mission Specialists Barbara Morgan [Video] and Richard Mastracchio during the flight of STS-118 tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, August 16th live on NASA-TV. The STS-118 downlink will be held at the Challenger Learning Center of Greater Washington located at Challenger Center Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. The 20-minute Q&A session will include an invited audience of up to 200 students (including 20 who will be chosen to ask questions via a national poster contest), teachers and special guests (including many astronauts). Remember.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Saturday 5:26:34 a.m. EDT Liftoff to Mars from Canaveral

A NASA robotic explorer equipped to dig up and analyze icy soil on Mars sits atop a 13-story tall stack of rocket engines prepared for liftoff before sunup on Saturday. See the 5:26 AM launch on NASA-TV.

A Delta II launch vehicle will carry the Phoenix Mars Lander into Earth orbit and, about 90 minutes later, give it the push needed to send it to Mars. A three-week period when planetary positions are favorable for this launch begins with an opportunity at 5:26:34 a.m. EDT on Aug. 4. A second opportunity the same day, if needed, will come at 6:02:59 a.m. EDT.

"We have worked for four years to get to this point, so we are all very excited," said Barry Goldstein, Phoenix project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena. "Our attention after launch will be focused on flying the spacecraft to our selected landing site, preparing for surface operations, and continuing our relentless examination and testing for the all-important descent and landing on May 25 of next year."

Phoenix will travel 679 million kilometers (422 million miles) in an outward arc from Earth to Mars. It will determine whether icy soil on far northern Mars has conditions that have ever been suitable for life.