Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The new impact target decision was prompted by the current best understanding of hydrogen concentrations in the Cabeus region, including cross-correlation between the latest LRO results and LP data sets and after consultation with scientific community, including impact experts, ground and space based observers, and observations from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), Lunar Prospector (LP), Chandrayaan-1 and JAXA's Kaguya spacecraft.
Simualtion models show a small valley in an otherwise tall Cabeus perimeter ridge, which will allow for sunlight to illuminate the ejecta cloud on Oct. 9, and much sooner than previously estimated for Cabeus. While the ejecta does have to fly to higher elevations to be observed by Earth assets, a shadow cast by a large hill along the Cabeus ridge, provides an excellent, high-contrast, back drop for ejecta and vapor measurements.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
The California Space Authority is hosting the 2009 Lunar Regolith Excavation Challenge Saturday and Sunday, October 17 and 18, 2009 at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA. with the California Space Education and Workforce Institute spearheading the event. The NASA Centennial Challenges is providing the $500,000 first place prize money. Moonraker, TeleOp, Thunderbird, Astrobotic Moon digger and Attila are among the over 20 challenger teams signed-up to dig lunar simulant in 2009. Twitter the Regolith Challenge.
Human colonization of the Moon may have just taken a bold step forward with the announcements of confirmed water. Many lunar scientists and would-be lunar real estate developers believe the South Pole region will be where the first human settlements will be staked. Perhaps it is time to get to know the important real estate. The above YouTube video gives one an idea of the important lunar geography around Shackleton Crater [video].
NASA hopes to verify water-ice deposits when its Lunar Crater Observations and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) impacts crater Cabeus A near the moon's south pole on Oct. 9, 2009.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The above NASA press conference continues at NASA YouTube 2, NASA YouTube 3, NASA Q & A 4, and NASA Q & A 5. The science may be a game-changer for lunar exploration and colonization by humans in the future. At a minimum, the lunar water confirmation demonstrates that the neglect of the lunar exploration since the days of Apollo has been an error. Water on the Moon is like gold. The announcements were also shared by Brown University and the University of Maryland.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
A noted lunar surface systems architect currently working on a NASA funded study, Daga says "ordinarily," [lava tubes and water deposits] are "counterintuitive, because most of the polar regions are highlands, and you typically see lava tubes in mare areas." The Moon's South Pole Aitkin Basin, however, "is an enormous and deep hole formed from a collision, and that sort of thing typically causes a lot of molten material to well up and form a lava plain."
Daga notes that there are possible significant cost reductions in a lunar lava tube human habitat -- "20% less expensive, depending on how many years you look out. Mix in the fact that you have nearby water, and that starts looking like a convergence of issues. It’s cheaper, it’s the place all the scientists want to go, you can stay there, it is where other countries will want to go."
Daga and others have studied utilization of lunar lava tubes for subsequent human habitats for more than a decade. There exisit ongoing studies including design plans, safety analysis, and academic papers. A recent YouTube video explains the extreme interest in the Moon's water-ice. Scientific confirmation of significant lunar water will drive public policy for a return to the Moon in the years to come. Daga's work, along with many others, will enable humanity to be ready.
Dr. Carle M. Pieters of Brown University, planetary geologist and principal investigator of the M3 instrument, will conduct the press briefing. A recent report published by Nature News hints: “Results soon to be published… will show detailed spectra confirming that, indeed, the polar regions of the moon are chockfull of water-altered minerals.”
After suffering from several technical issues including failure of the star sensors and poor thermal shielding, Chandrayaan stopped sending radio signals on August 29, 2009 shortly after which, India's space agency officially declared the mission over. Chandrayaan operated for 312 days as opposed to the intended two years but the mission achieved 95 percent of its planned objectives.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
More from Space.com and the Orlando Sentinel. The ticker tape parade will be held Walt Disney World in Florida on Friday, Oct. 2, 2009 beginning at 2:45 PM EST to celebrate Buzz Lightyear's record-setting 468 days in space. He will be joined by Dr. Buzz Aldrin in the parade.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Black Brant XII Suborbital Sounding Rocket was launched to study the Earth's highest clouds from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility from Wallops Island, VA. The light came from an artificial noctilucent cloud formed by the exhaust particles of the rocket's fourth stage about 173 miles high. The strange sight caused reports on CNN, AP, Examiner, and a unique report from WFMZ-TV 69 about the Charged Aerosol Release Experiment (CARE). More from Space.com.
Friday, September 18, 2009
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's seven scientific instruments have indeed confirmed the presence of large amounts of hydrogen -- a marker for water -- in permanently shadowed south pole craters, where scientists had known there were deposits of hydrogen. But the instruments have also found the element in regions where the sun shines, reports The Los Angeles Times.
NASA scientists said Thursday that this could mean water is buried underground. Water could not exist on the surface, where it is exposed to daytime temperatures as high as 220 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Richard Vondrak, project scientist for the mission, known as LRO.
Scientists also suggest that the coldest spot in the solar system may well be the Moon's South Pole while producing the first ever temperature map of the lunar surface. Temperatures there were measured at 397 degrees below zero. That's just 62 degrees higher than the lowest temperature possible, notes an AP story. That ultra-cold temperature is important because it can trap volatile chemicals, such as water and methane, said NASA probe project scientist Richard Vondrak with more from Science Daily.
The story of water on the Moon is related in MSNBC, The Scientific American, and The New York Times. Many believe a major finding of water at the Moon will be the necessary driver to bring human astronauts back to the lunar surface along with taikonauts and cosmonauts [sound track].
The Demonstration Flight H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) was successfully berthed at the International Space Station (ISS) on September 18, 2009 following the successful September 11, 2009 launch aboard a the H-IIB Test Flight Launch Vehicle from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. The HTV spacecraft will remain docked with the ISS until November 1, 2009 provding ample time to unload the five tons of cargo for the Kibō Japanese Experiment Module. The HTV will ultimately burn-up upon re-entry into the atmosphere.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
The 45 men and women now under review to become bona fide taikonauts are between the ages 27 and 34, members of the People's Liberation Army air force, and hold college degrees. The vetting process will continue to narrow the group of 45 to 7 following extensive physiological and psychological tests to undertake stays in space and at a space lab.
China selected 14 taikonauts years ago and from among them six have now flown to space including the now famous taikonaut Yang Liwei aboard the Shenzhou-5 in 2003, followed by two taikonauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng aboard the Shenzhou-6 in 2005, and more recently three taikonauts - Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng - aboard Shenzhou-7 in 2008 whereupon the first Chinese spacewalk was conducted.
A Chinese space lab is expected to be launched in late 2010 foloowed by the robot capusle of Shenzhou-8 to perform the first Chinese on-orbit docking in 2011. Shenzhou-9 is also expected to dock with the unmanned space module that year carrying taikonauts selected from the original 14 taikonauts. The first female taikonaut is not expected to fly until 2012.
China has the ambition of landing human taikonauts on the Moon by 2020.
Masten Space Systems' Xombie rocket got halfway through a round-trip flight in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge but apparently sprung an engine leak. As a result, the Masten team called off Wednesday's initial bid to win a $150,000 prize from NASA. More from Alan Boyle. Linked is a YouTube video of Xombie test flight.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Exo-planet CoRoT-7b is now being described as the first rocky planet outside our Solar System marking a significant step forward in the search for Earth-like exoplanets. Astronomers and planetary scientists have found 373 exo-planets in alien star systems; and the number of exo-planets discovered expands almost daily now with a growing number of space telescopes.
The COROT and Kepler space telescope missions are designed to find many, many more exo-palnets and perhaps a space telescope will find one or more similar to Earth with an oxygen atmosphere and more or less 1G. More with a Planet Hunting vid and
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Gate City High School leadership teacher Rhonda O. Kilgore of Scott County was named by the Southwestern Virginia Technology Council and Powell Valley Middle School language teacher David Stallard of Wise County Public Schools was named by the Masonic Lodge No. 208 to next month's zero-gravity flight.
Both Stallard and Kilgore will experience zero gravity, 1/6 lunar gravity, and 1/3 Mars gravity during the flight. Both will be working with their respective students developing a flight experiment this month.
In the event that the named teachers can not fly for whatever reason back-up were named. Kilgore's back-up will be Steve Gregory, a Chilhowie Middle School technology teacher in Smyth County, while Stallard's back-up will be Lindsey Mabe, a Powell Valley High School mathematics teacher in Wise County.
The four winning teachers are also being invited to tour the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, VA. where commercial space launches will commence in April 2011 to re-supply and carry cargo to orbit destined to the six-member crew of the International Space Station announced Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority secretary Jack Kennedy of Wise, VA.
Next year the Masonic Lodge No. 208 plan to hold a competition for a Powell Valley school student to undertake zero-gravity astronaut training to further boost STEM education.
Megan R. Seals, a 5th grade teacher at Fairfax County Public Schools and Big Stone Gap native, told the nearly 600 students assembled at the Powell Valley Middle School of her experience in zero-gravity flight and the Space Frontier Foundation program to fly public school teachers to suborbital space.
Feting the public school teachers for their commitment to STEM education and for serving as a role model for hundreds of Central Appalachian Mountain students was State Delegate Terry G. Kilgore (R-Gate City). Both Kilgore and State Senator William C. Wampler, Jr. (R-Bristol) have been influential in shaping Virginia's spaceflight public policy.
Norman Augustine testified to the House Committee on Science and Technology today on the Options and Issues for NASA's Human Space Flight Program. Linked above is his opening statement. There are more documents at the House Science and Technology web page along with a committee press release.
Meanwhile the Commercial Spaceflight Federation projects the creation of 5,000 new jobs from a commercial crew program.
The NewSpace community is advancing the foregoing video as the pitched-politics begins on Capitol Hill as to the future of the NASA Ares rocket booster and the planned October 31, 2009 Ares 1-X test flight. The YouTube video casts the Ares-1 in competition with the SpaceX Falcon 9 and the ULA Atlas V. Be sure to vote the poll to the right of the page prior to the expiration date.
The Hainan site is being built to accommodate the Long March CZ-5 carrier rocket, which will be able to carry larger payloads and is slated to become the workhorse of China's manned space and space station program. Covering an area of 20 sq km, the Wenchang Satellite Launching Center will cover a space launching port, a space theme scientific park, a rocket assembling plant, a rocket launching base, and the command center.
The theme park, dubbed as the first-ever one in Asia with the theme of areospace, will exhibit rockets and model rockets and provide opportunities for visitors to experience zero gravity. Chinese tourist sources indicate that upon completion this spaceport and others will be open to American foreign nationals - perhaps the 'ice breaker' is dawning in Sino-American space diplomatic relations.
Upon becoming operational, the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center will join the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center and the Xichang Satellite Launch Center for Chinese civil, commercial, and military launch campaigns. The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert is not open to Americans [with no immediate prospect for change] but the spaceport has served as the base for the three Chinese human space launches since 2003.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Anatoly Zak advises today in the BBC that the Phobos-Grunt mission [fun vid animation] aims to land on the Martian moon Phobos to collect soil samples and return them to Earth may be delayed for launch next month to sometime in 2011. A final Russian space agency decision is expected next week.
A delay for Phobos-Grunt would also affect China's first Mars probe Yinghuo 1, as the two craft are due to be launched together on the same Zenit rocket. The decision to roll out the vehicle to the Baikonur spaceport would mean a commitment to launch this year, while failure to do so would postpone the mission to 2011, says Zak.
Several NASA robotic lunar probes are now being planned to land on the Moon within the decade ahead. The Google Lunar X-Prize Teams may also find ideas for lunar science among the scientific community effort. The Lunar White Papers are filled with ideas on the science the Moon probes should undertake while operational on the surface. [Hat tip to Andrew 'Andy' Daga, a former UND Space Studies classmate. His proposal is on a survey of lunar lava tubes.]
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Hat Tip to Robin!
Elon Musk says that the Falcon 9 -Dragon crew configuration can beat the Russians cost per astronaut to the international space station by about $32-million per astronaut if his commercial space launch operation is succcessful in proving the viability of the booster and spacecraft in the coming few years.
"At Space X we feel pretty confident in being able to do it for $20 million per seat," Musk told a recent conference call with reporters. That is about 40% of what it costs to contract astronaut launches with the Russian Space Agency, he said. The Space-X benchmark price is based upon flying four Dragon crew capsules per year with seven astronauts each.
The Russian space agency Roscosmos last May raised the charge to NASA to fly American astronauts at the rate of $51-million per seat to the International Space Station beginning in 2012. Virginia-based Space Adventures, Ltd. notes that there may be a significant potential price difference due to Russian "training and language requirements."
Space-X is building the Falcon-9 while Orbital Sciences Corporation is building the Taurus-2 to mount crew capsules atop the boosters to deliever government or commercial astronauts to low Earth orbit following numerous test flights with cargo to the space station. But as former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin noted this week, there is no commercial launch option for orbital astronauts today with most experts projecting crewed commercial flights by 2016.
Anderson has noted that Space Adventures could market seats at $20-million much more broadly to the public than is done to today using the Russian-made Soyuz. Increased space tourist demand would require a destination other than the ISS such as a Bigelow Space Hotel.
Billionaire Guy Laliberte, who owns Cirque du Soleil, is set to become the world's seventh, and Canada's first space tourist slated to travel on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station at the end of September. Two members of the crew tell Russia Today they are ready. Laliberte tells more about his October 9 space show. The launch will be webcast on NASA-TV.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Space News is reporting that Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation has plans to develop a Taurus-2 Cygnus-based astronaut crew capsule that will open remarkable possibilities at Virginia's commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport by 2016.
A crew variant of Orbital's Cygnus pressurized cargo module capable of carrying three or four astronauts, along with a human-rated version of Taurus 2, could be developed at a cost of $2 billion to $3 billion requiring significant private investment and supporting space launch infrastructure over the next five years. Orbital Sciences started a study last year.
The White House is being urged by commercial space launch advocates to set aside at least $2.5 billion to stimulate private-sector competition to develop a commercial crew capability. Many commercial spaceflight experts see the recommendation being viewed favorably by the Obama White House.
Orbital Sciences will employ its Taurus-2 medium-lift launch vehicle and the Cygnus spacecraft in order to service the International Space Station (ISS) under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract from Virginia's Eastern Shore Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport co-located at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility.
Orbital Sciences now joins SpaceX, Bigelow Aerospace, and Excalibur Almaz in the development of commercial human space transport capsules. The four commercial space launch firms will continue development testing in the year(s) ahead prior to any commercial crew launch to orbit.
Meanwhile the civil space sector seeks to advance the development options of the NASA Orion human capsule. Orion options and scenarios are explored in these Lockheed Martin videos one , two , and three  released recently. The Indian government is also planning a new space capsule for a crew of three to debut in 2015 as the operational Russian Soyuz and the Chinese Shenzou capsules continue to soar above their boosters to orbit.