Thursday, December 31, 2009
A new 65-meter-diameter radio telescope started construction this week in Shanghai, China designed to support tracking and collecting data from satellites and space probes including Chinese astronomical projects like Chang'e lunar probe, YH-1 Mars exploration and other deep space explorations, said Zhan Wenlong, deputy dean of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
The nearly $30-million (USD) project is also capable of receiving data for Jupiter and Saturn exploration, said Hong Xiaoyu, head of Shanghai Astronomical Observation, which will run the project after it is expected to be fully completed in 2015 but will provide support for tracking and locating missions during China's lunar probe program from 2013 to 2014; more from China Daily.
The Chang'e-2 lunar orbiter is expected to be launched at the end of 2010.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The large asteroid Apophis is BAAAACK!
Russia's Roscosmos space agency chief, Antoly Perminov, is advising that the world's space agencies take the Apophis asteriod impact threat seriously, saying "lives are at stake," in a statement to a Russian news agency. "We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would ... prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people."
Perminov is saying that "calculations show that it's possible to create a special purpose spacecraft within the time we have" and "the threat of collision can be averted" if the Russia's , American, European, and Chinese space agencies band together to do build space defense hardware before the 2036 impact date. There is more in this Agence France Presse report, from Pravda with video, and The Guardian.
The impact of Apophis, as suggested by the Russians, would be much larger than the impact at Meteor Crater in Arizona and described as three times the size of the almost three times as large as the Tunguska meteorite that struck Sibera over 100-years ago. Here is more on the the asteriod threat from A.C. Charania's Planetary Defense blog.
America's NASA has plans to defend against the asteriod. The United Nations has been listening to the counsel of former Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart on these matters for some time. Congress has taken the matter seriously and funded Near Earth Asteroid searches but not building hardware yet to do it.
Near Earth Objects and Planetary Defence group made a volunteer made video documentary last month about the current issues surrounding defending the Earth from Asteroid and Comet impacts in four parts.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
It's going to take infrared eyes to see farther back in time than even the Hubble Space Telescope, and that's what the James Webb Space Telescope's MIRI or Mid-Infrared Instrument detectors will do. Now there's a new short movie that shows what the MIRI detectors are all about and what they can do. More from NASA's JPL. The telespcope launch is planned for June 2014 aboard an ESA Ariane 5 booster rocket from the French Guiana Space Center.
Akatsuki (meaning dawn), formerly known as PLANET-C and Venus Climate Orbiter (VCO), is a planned Japanese unmanned spacecraft to explore Venus currently planned for launch in May 2010, with arrival in December 2010 for a mission of two years or more. The Akatsuki spacecraft will be launched from Earth to Venus aboard a H-IIA (type 202) booster rocket; JAXA is allowing it to carrying your name and message.
The $100-million mission will conduct several scientific investigations including surface imaging with an infrared camera and experiments designed to confirm the presence of lightning and determine the existence or otherwise of current surface volcanism.
Akatsuki is not the first spacecraft to explore Venus; it will be the 27th mission launched from Earth. But Venus was the first planet to ever be reached by a space probe in 1962. The Mariner 2 spacecraft flew within 34,400 kilometers of the surface of Venus and transmitted to Earth information about its temperature and details about its atmosphereand rotational period.
The Orbiter of Pioneer Venus was launched on May 20, 1978. It entered an orbit around Venus in December of that same year. Most of the Orbiter instruments were still working when the probe entered the Venusian atmosphere in October of 1992.
The Soviet probe, Venera 7 was the first probe to land on Venus. Unfortunately, it was put out of operation within an hour by Venus' high temperature. In 1982, Venera 13 transmitted the first color pictures from Venus' surface.
The Magellan spacecraft, launched in 1989, arrived at Venus on August 10, 1990. Before its demise in October 1994, Magellan was able to collect radar images of 98% of Venus' surface.
Friday, December 25, 2009
An American-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) could be organized to execute a contract with Virginia-based Space Adventures to purchase a $100-million USD dedicated Russian Soyuz 2012 spaceflight. The mission would be crewed by perhaps a Russian spaceflight commander/pilot cosmonaut, a Chinese taikonaut passenger, and an American commercial astronaut-diplomat -- all of distinguished careers --- to fly for a 10-day stay at the International Space Station. Such a People-to-People-like space mission would demonstrate the possibilities for multinational cooperation in human spaceflight. The concept mission would be well worth Chinese financial investment giving the civilization-state the desired recognition as an equal partner in the human exploration of space.
But there should be a second People-to-People-like mission whereby a second $100-million USD Russian Soyuz would be contracted in 2013. The purpose of the second mission would be to fly a multinational crew of a Russian spaceflight commander/pilot cosmonaut, a Chinese taikonaut passenger, and an American NASA astronaut (should 'the agency' accept the gesture). The purpose of the mission would be to rendezvous in space with a Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft at (or near) the planned Chinese space station known as Tiangong-1. There a Chinese taikonaut crew member could be exchanged between the orbiting Soyuz and Shenzhou for seperate returns from orbit. The crew-swap would constitute the first Chinese space station crew exchange.
The importance of a joint mission to the Chinese Tiangong-1 station is for the Chinese to provide 'clarity of intent' to the West, and the United States Congress more specifically, that the new spacefaring nation openly petitions to be a part of civil space exploration and discourse without hostile intent.
In 2009 this blogger visited China, read Chinese space-related literature, and listened to informed commentators. The Project 2012 concept has been vetted (through the creation of a draft paper and Power Point) with Space Adventures, US academic Chinese space experts, commercial space lawyers and space policy experts, business organizations, a member of the United States Congress, and others gaining vaired reactions.
With United States President Barack Obama clearly sending signal of his desire to cooperate with China in space, it is time to make this proposal more open and direct with the Chinese. It is time for breakthrough diplomacy in space that captures global imagination while utilizing the existing and short-term planned space assets to set the larger political foundation for government-to-government [G2G] international human space policy progress and action. The Project 2012 concept is more significant and more challenging than the Apollo-Soyuz handshake of yesteryear. The American government would not have a human-rated booster rocket in the space center stable.
Your views would be welcomed in the comment section below or in a direct connection via e-mail or cellular telephone or a 'Tweet.' It is time to think ahead of the curve and advance human space cooperation to the next level.
Think about it; John F. Kennedy did.
The five-member crew of the International Space Station are today sharing special food in the celebration of the traditional Christmas celebration but in less than a fortnight the crew will again celebrate the Russian Orthodox Christmas on January 7, 2010 in addition to ringing in the New Year 220-miles above planet Earth. The crew will have American, Russian, and Japanese food supplies to share for the three holidays adding to the multi-culutral orbital holiday season.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
But in modern science, a blue moon is a full moon that is not timed to the regular monthly pattern but it is a rare event usually caused by smoke or dust particles in the Earth's atmosphere. Specifically, a blue moon is a second full moon in a calendar month.
Two full moons in the same calendar month happens about every 2.7 years. The exact time of full moon is 2:13 p.m. Dec. 31, or about three hours before its 5:16 p.m. rise time for those who take an outside stroll evening/night hike into the Blue Moon New Year.
Forty-one years ago Apollo 8 astronauts were the first human beings to circle the Moon caputuring the attention of billions of peoples on the Earth. Now humans have found water and other significant minerals and are in a global contemplation of new robotic probes and a return to the Moon by human beings. It is time to seriously think about, what Bill Gates years ago called, "The Road Ahead."
"[T]he uncertainty of the ISS program beyond its 2015 retirement date has deterred members of the scientific community from considering the station as a platform for fundamental research," GAO says.
The problem is compounded by the upcoming retirement of the space shuttle fleet after five more missions, and NASA's decision not to use Russian Progress capsules for cargo transport to the station after 2011. NASA is estimating an 88,000-pound shortfall in cargo capacity in 2010-15, and severe shortages in the ability to return samples and other scientific cargo to Earth.
The GAO recommended seven executive actions to enhance the ISS based upon options of retirment of the facility in 2015 or extenting its operations into future years [most likely 2020]. The GAO indicates that it will provide the Congress with additional information depending upon the course of executive actions. The President is now reviewing space policy options at the White House.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The grants will be awarded by the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) under Dr. George Nield to allow spaceports to support operations and protect public safety. Existing and proposed spaceports in Virginia, California, Florida, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Alaska, Wisconsin, Indiana, and other states, will be eligible for these competitively-awarded grants.
In addition to promoting safety, the STIM-Grants program is expected to increase the competitiveness of U.S. launch facilities and create new jobs.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
In an exclusive ScienceInsider report, President Barack Obama has decided to ask the Congress next year to fund a new heavy-lift launcher to take humans on 'dash outs' to the Moon, asteroids, and the moons of Mars. NASA would receive an additional $1 billion in 2011 both to get the new heavy-lift launcher on track and to bolster the agency’s fleet of robotic Earth-monitoring spacecraft. The report failed to indicate if the heavy-lift vehicle would be the Ares-V.
The state of New Mexico, home of Spaceport America and the launch site for commercial paying space tourists aboard the first Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo flights, is again considering spaceflight liability and immunity legislation similar to the measure killed last year by the state's legislature, reports The Las Cruces-Sun. The measure is designed to reduce insurance costs for spaceflight companies.
Virginia was the first in the nation with Spaceflight Laibility & Immunity state law in 2007 followed by Florida in 2008 and Texas in 2009. New Mexico may be the fourth state to adopt risk assumption for spaceflight in 2010 with state officials saying "We're confident it will pass."
Virginia will seek to repeal the July 1, 2013 senset clause attached to the state's orginial law to place it on the same cometitive footing as Flroida and Texas in the 2010 session of the state legislature. The measure has been pre-filed by Virginia State Delegate Terry Kilgore. The veteran state legislator carried the original spaceflight liability & immunity measure in 2007.
Planet GJ1214 has been found by astronomers recently only 40 light years away with a mass about six times that of Earth. The planet's interior is likely mostly made of water ice surrounded by a thick but very hot atmosphere, which makes it inhospitable for life as we know it on Earth, according to the European Southern Observatory and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. NASA JLP now notes that 403 exoplanets have been discovered outside of Earth's solar system. Popular Science notes that many more exoplanets are soon to be found with perhaps the Earth-like twin planet not far ahead.
Scientists say they will soon find such a rocky planet in the habitable region, or "Goldilocks zone," of a star, where its orbit will make it "not too hot" and "not to cold" to theoretically support life. One estimate today is that an erath-like planet will be found orbiting a star within the next 24-months or less.
The Universe is an interesting place!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
"The President confirmed his commitment to human space exploration, and the goal of ensuring that the nation is on a sustainable path to achieving our aspirations in space," said White House spokesman Nicholas Shapiro. There will be a clear idea of the future direction prior to the President's Statue of the Union addess to Congress next month.
Meanwhile, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) was critical of NASA's human spaceflight funding today.
For more on the meeting between Obama and Bolden linked are articles from The Huntsville Times, SpaceNews, MSNBC, SpaceflightNow, The Orlando Sentinel, Florida Today, SpacePolitics, and NASAWatch. There will be much more said about this meeting in the days ahead.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
William Pomerantz recently penned an article regarding the NASA prizes which included: the Regolith Excavation, Green Flight, Lunar Lander, Power Beaming, Tether, Astronaut Glove, and Lunar Oxygen Production Challenges. Only the Lunar Oxygen Production Challenge expired unclaimed from the $10-million program started in 2005 thereafter leading to the contests.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Thin-film nansolar may be a key to making space-based solar power a more vaiable business venture while providing several new more Earth-based energy solutions so says well-known international entrepreneur Peter Sage in a recent Space Show with Dr. David Livingston.
Sage notes that Thin-Film PhotoVoltaics improve efficiency, lower mass, and increase deployment size, thus they effectively lower launch costs adding to new business opportunities including space-based solar power. Listen to Sage advise on The Space Show.
The above video is from NanoSolar but there are several new firms that are involved with the production thin-film photovoltaic solar panels. Think ink, not silicon.
Friday, December 11, 2009
UPDATE: The Saturnian moon of Titan will continue to lure planetary scientists into further research this month with two planned encounter flybys by the Cassini spacecraft now in orbit around the ringed planet. The flybys scheduled for December 12 and 28 will advance the climate research being conducted into the polar lakes and/or seasonal change detection on Titan.
A recent NASA-commissioned study indicates that the eccentricity of Saturn's orbit might have produced the unusually uneven pattern of lakes over the polar regions of Saturn's largest moon. Saturn's oblong orbit around the sun exposes different parts of Titan to different amounts of sunlight, which affect cycles of precipitation and evaporation in the polar regions.
The Mars moons Phobos and Deimos have been caught on camera together for the first time. ESA's Mars Express orbiter took the pioneering images last month (above). The Russian federal space agency had planned a mission to the moon Phobos this year to return soil but the mission was delayed by technical issues until 2011 along with a Chinese Mars orbiter. NASA is also considering a human spaceflight to the moons of Mars in the decades ahead as a part of the Constellation-Orion program probably in the range of 2025-to-2030.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
"Our space sector hasn't missed a beat during this recession," Drayson said. "The new space agency is about making sure that the UK fully exploits its competitive advantage in satellites, robotics and related technologies," reports The Guardian and the BBC.
Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, a Chicago-based serial entrepreneur and Chairman of PlanetSpace, is interviewed for 10-minutes about his plans in the commercial space launch sector. He predicts commercial cargo will go to ISS in the next 24-to-36 months; commercial astronauts in 3-to-7 years. Point-to-point (P2P) space tourism he estimated to 2-to-5 years for the industry to achieve the goal. Dr. Kathuria's firm partnered with major space firms to seek NASA cargo-to-space contracts. He is also a former founding director of MirCorporation.
The predicted Geminids Meteor Shower maximum is Sunday, December 13, 2009 just prior to midnight. The radiant is highest in the sky at around 2am, but from mid-northern latitudes it is at a decent elevation from around 10pm until the beginning of morning twilight. The Geminids can produce observed rates of over 100/hour at maximum, and are reliable (for a meteor shower) as well as spectacular. More from NASA JPL and initial observations.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Of note in the SpaceNews report is "Within the $3.8 billion appropriated for exploration, the conference bill includes $100 million for “heavy lift cargo launch capability” and $39.1 million for development of commercially procured cargo transport to the international space station under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services contract." More from Florida Today.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
The Stage 1 includes a short, one page proposal for consideration of the development of the full Stage 2 proposal. Both Stage 1 and Stage 2 proposals need to be vetted by various department, college, and university committees and administrators, and approved by the SBHE. Though typically, each of the proposal stages take about an academic year to be approved, the thorough process ensures the long term viability and quality of the program. Once the Stage 1 is approved, the two departments will be given two years to come up with a detailed Stage 2 proposal, according to Santhosh Seelan, Professor and Graduate Director at UND.
The Stage 1 proposal was submitted early in the fall semester of 2009 and is making its way through the various committees. UND PhD proponents expect the SBHE approval for Stage 1 to be obtained sometime in spring 2010. We will then be given two more years to submit the Stage 2 proposal. Our hope is to submit the stage 2 proposal sometime in 2011, Seelan reported in an e-mail. The exact date the university will offer a doctorate in aerospace studies is not yet exactly known but appears possible in the fall of 2012 or 2013. [This blogger holds a M.S. in Space Studies from UND.]
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has made the deepest image of the universe ever taken in near-infrared light. The faintest and reddest objects in the image are galaxies that formed 600 million years after the Big Bang. No galaxies have been seen before at such early times. The galaxies are an estimated 78 trillion miles (music vid) distant from Earth! The galaxies are about 13 billion light years away. Each light year is about 6 trillion miles. The Wide Field Camera-3 captured the unique images. More from the BBC, Scientific American, The Times On-Line, and AP.
Historically, every dollar spent on space exploration has yielded significant returns in the form of innovations that touch our lives here on Earth. We experience the benefits from space every day. Each time we use our GPS systems, talk on our cell phones or get the weather forecast. The video is provided by the Coalition for Space Exploration.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo "Enterprise" was seen and discussed today in Mojave, California. SpaceShipTwo will be carried to high altitude by the WhiteKnightTwo before being dropped and boosted to space under rocket power with six passengers and two pilots upon going into commercial operations in mid-2012. Flight tickets may be reserved for $200,000 to join the hundreds on the waiting list. More details from SpaceRef.com, CNN, Alan Boyle at MSNBC.com and the BBC.
But what is more interesting is that SpaceFlight Now reports that the Pentagon's Operationally Responsive Space program is interested in the LauncherOne version with WhiteKnightTwo to boost satellites.
Sunday, December 06, 2009
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) last Thursday (December 3, 2009) approved a renewable energy contract for Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), furthering the state's progress towards its renewable energy goals and advancing space-based solar power projects (if successful) in 2016.
Through its power purchase agreement with Solaren Corporation, PG&E is entitled to generation from a first-of-its kind space-based solar project. The experimental technology uses orbiting satellites equipped with solar cells to convert the sun's energy into electricity, which is then converted into radio frequency energy that can be transmitted to a local receiver station.
California-based Solaren Corporation anticipates 1,700 gigawatt-hours of energy per year throughout the 15-year contract term beginning in 2016 at a facility in Fresno County. While an experimental project is unique for the state's Renewables Portfolio Standard program, the CPUC approved the agreement because it is consistent with the state's objective of increasing its reliance on a diverse supply of renewable energy resources and of supporting renewable technologies at reasonable costs and risks to ratepayers.
The video above is the Delta IV Medium rocket with 4 solid rocket boosters lifting-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Flordia on Saturday night at 8:47 PM EST, Dec. 5, 2009. Details of the launch are provided by SpaceflightNow. That Delta IV has a thundering ROAR!
The $1 million is needed to make repairs to the railroad car float that links Virginia's Eastern Shore with the rest of the state. Both Accomack County and Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. Virginia has $700,000 in grant money to repair the float, which ceased operations last summer, but another $300,000 from a revolving loan fund administered by the Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission would need to be repaid over 10 years by some combination of the two Virginia Eastern Shore counties and the railroad.
The railroad line uses two tug boat guided rail barges (car floats) of 25 and 15 car capacity to link the 26 mile water route across the Chesapeake Bay between Cape Charles, Virginia and Norfolk — using the north and south terminals of the now defunct Little Creek-Cape Charles Ferry. The rail-to-car float operation of the Bay Coast Railroad has been in continuous service since April 1885 enabling the rail line connection between Pocomoke City, Maryland to Norfolk, Virginia, and is one of only two remaining in the United States.
Orbital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II booster, set to be used for re-supply and cargo missions to the International Space Station and to be launched from the Wallops Island, Virginia spaceport beginning in 2011. The Taurus II requires first-stage fuel tanks built in Ukraine and to be delivered to the port in Norfolk. Transport options include barge or the rail-barge combination. More detail from DelmarvaNow.
Saturday, December 05, 2009
A brief history of the Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity Part II available by clicking here.
The Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity are nearing six years on Mars beginning next month in what is being seen as one of the more successful planetary science missions in human history - especially since the rovers were designed to last only 90-days. NPR conducted an interview Friday on getting the rover Spirit mobile again and get it free from the Mars sand.
A new Mars Rover is being prepared for a landing on Mars known as the Mars Science Laboratory [video]. The new rover will be launched in September 2011 for Mars surface operations in 2012. The new rover should yield even greater scientific achievement building upon the legacy of the NASA Mars program. The rover will carry the moniker "Curiosity" and it is on Twitter.
Friday, December 04, 2009
The first time in decades NASA is performing tests on primates, though the agency famously relied on the close human relatives to make some of the first forays into space in the 1950s. The testing is drawing the disgust of animial rights advocates with a dozen protestors taking to the streets in Boston this week seeking to halt the space agency tests.
NASA recently awarded the McLean Hospital in Boston a $1.75 million research grant to investigate the effects that space radiation may have on astronauts during future space explorations. The 27 squirrel monkeys primates will be hit with radiation doses equivalent to three years of space travel at a New York facility and then will be shipped to McLean Hospital to live under the watch of Harvard Medical School researchers.
The initial phase of the study is proposed to take place at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory, located at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, NY, where up to 18 non-human primates (squirrel monkeys) will receive a one-time exposure of low levels of space radiation similar to what an astronaut would encounter on a Mars mission. The second phase of the study will be conducted at McLean Hospital, where the primates will be monitored for changes in behavior. All primates involved in this study will spend the remainder of their natural lives in a vivarium with full veterinary oversight.
Kotov, Creamer and Noguchi will join Expedition 22 Commander Jeff Williams of NASA and Russian Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev, who have been on the orbiting complex since October.
How do you put a price on a dream?
In his most recent film "Space Tourists", Swiss filmaker Christian Frei turns to an age-old dream of man: to leave our planet as a «normal person» and travel into outer space. For 20 million dollars, the American Anousheh Ansari was able to fulfil this childhood dream.
This documentary follows her journey into space and shows everyday life as it is on the International Space Station. The North American Premiere is set for the World Cinema Documentary Competition, Sundance Film Festival, January 21-31 2010.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
SpaceX plans expects to launch its cargo-carrying Dragon capsule on its first flight to the ISS sometime between May and November 2010.
The astronauts were briefed on vehicle ingress and egress, habitability of the spacecraft, payload handling and commanding through SpaceX's COTS Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Communication Unit. The training was a key step in SpaceX's progress towards providing NASA an alternative for cargo transport to and from the ISS when the Space Shuttle retires. More from BusinessWire.
SpaceX is under contract to NASA to conduct three COTS demo flights, to be followed by 12 cargo flights between 2010 and 2015 from Cape Canaveral. Meanwhile, Orbital Sciences Corporation will conduct cargo flights in a similar time period using the Taurus 2 booster.
The report cites seven critical issues that must be resolved by the Federal Aviation Administration and the federal regulatory scheme to better ensure the edevelopment of commercial space launch activities.