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Monday, May 31, 2010

Falcon 9 May Launch Friday, June 4, 2010


The SpaceX Falcon 9 booster rocket has a tentative first test launch date of Friday, June 4, 2010 between the hours of 11 AM and 3 PM at the earliest from the dedicated commercial launch pad at Cape Canaveral.

The NewSpace company was hoping to have gotten a test flight in by now, but their work was pushed back several times, most recently because of delays with the launch of a Delta IV rocket earlier in May after four failed attempts.

If the Falcon 9 test proves successful, SpaceX will continue with a launch manifest to the International Space Station in the spring of 2011, months later than originally anticipated by NASA, [SpaceNews] but long before the space agency will have any likely government alternative.

Under the leadership of Elon Musk, SpaceX won a $1.6 billion NASA contract to launch more than a dozen Falcon 9 booster rockets to resupply and carry cargo to the orbiting International Space Station. The firm envisions carrying astronauts to the orbiting laboratory by mid-decade with the Obama Administration betting on commercial space launch providers -like SpaceX, for space policy success.

Soyuz TMA-19 Readied for June 16 Launch

The Soyuz TMA-19 new crew expedition to the International Space Station is scheduled to rocket into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan, on June 16, 2010. The crew comprises Fyodor Yurchikhin of Russia and two American NASA astronauts, Douglas Willock and Shannon Walker, [France24] will continue training for the mission the next two weeks in Star City, Russia.

While on board the ISS, the crew will receive the manned spaceships Discovery and Soyuz TMA-01M, and also three Progress cargo spacecraft. The crew is scheduled to walk out into open space on three occasions from the ISS. They will be a part of the ISS Expedition 24 and ISS Expedition 25 crews [Energia]. The trio will join Russians Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko and American astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson for the Expedition 24 segment.

Part of the current ISS crew, Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineers T.J. Creamer and Soichi Noguchi, will end their stay on the International Space Station as Expedition 23 crew members Tuesday, June 1, 2010 aboard the Soyuz TMA-17 return spacecraft, making way for their coming replacements on June 16, [AP].

Friday, May 28, 2010

Delta IV Heavy Takes to Space


A ULA Delta IV lifted-off on a satellite delivery mission for the US Air Force. The Delta rocket launched into the dark Florida skies on May 27, 2010 clearing the way at Cape Canaveral for the targeted Friday, June 4, 2010 launch of the commercial SpaceX Falcon 9 demonstration flight.

STS-133 Discovery next but no poster (yet)

STS-133 Discovery is the next human space mission to be launched by Americans but the crew has no mission poster or flight patch displayed just yet since the STS-134 mission was delayed from the original target launch date of summer.

The STS-133 mission is set for launch 16 September 2010, will be to the International Space Station. The mission will transport the Pressurized Multipurpose Module and the fourth ExPRESS Logistics Carrier to the ISS. The mission will be the the 39th and final flight of Discovery and the 133rd and penultimate flight of the Space Shuttle program, which began on 12 April 1981.

The STS-134 Endeavour is now slated to liftoff in mid-November 2010 at the earliest. This is due to the ongoing design changes in AMS-02. There is a new STS-135 Atlantis mission now under active consideration for mid-2011 by the White House and NASA with a final decision expected late next month.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Next Generation: Masten Space


As the space shuttle fleet winds down, the next generation of space vehicles is under development, in part, by Masten Space Systems. The XA-0.1B-750 rocket vehicle takes off, translates off the pad, boosts, shuts of the engine, then it relights the engine and comes back down to the pad. This is the first time a VTVL rocket has relight the engine in flight, ever, in the history of the planet!

The Space Shuttle Atlantis: 1985-2010


Atlantis pilot Tony Antonelli watched the orbiter being towed from the runway after the landing. "I hope it's not the last time they do that, but it might be, and it's a shame," he said. "She is so ready to get stacked and back out to the launch pad," he said. "You can tell that's where she wants to be."

Delay, Delay, Delay of Falcon 9 Cape Launch

United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) postponed Delta 4 launch of the U.S. Air Force’s Global Positioning System 2F-SV1 satellite (GPS 2F-SV1) has pushed back SpaceX’s first test launch of the commercial Falcon 9 booster to no earlier than June 2, SpaceX confirmed May 26.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the Virginia commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is looking better to Elon Musk's overhead 'burn rate' with every single delay day in Florida? Virginia's 'Space Island' awaits SpaceX for Wallops to orbit!

NASA's Initial Point of Departure Plan

NASA's Initial Point of Departure Program plans were being discussed in Houston, Texas this week. The two-day Exploration Enterprise Workshop included several presentations that are linked to "A New Space Enterprise." The presentations are worthy of review to consider the new mission objectives.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Atlantis Lands at Spaceport Last Time


Space Shuttle Atlantis lands at the Kennedy Space Center one last time with a double sonic boom-boom!

'Space Island' to Wallop w/Open House!

NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility is celebrating its 65th Anniversary with a public open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 5, 2010. Visitors can meet with researchers and see the Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus spacecraft during an open house June 5 at the facility on the Eastern Shore, according to a NASA news release. Cygnus is expected to carry supplies to the International Space Station next year from the commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport next year after the space shuttle fleet is retired.

Exhibits, tours and demonstrations will be conducted during the event highlighting the many research activities by NASA at Wallops. Visitors will be able to go inside the sounding rocket payload facility, engineering and scientific balloon labs and the range control center. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport pads may be closed due to commercial space launch construction activities however.

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, that are performing in the Ocean City Air Show will be departing and arriving from Wallops throughout the afternoon. Gates will be opening at 9:30 a.m. Just take the 'Space Highway' Route 13 north from Virginia Beach, Va. if your coming from the South or flying into Norfolk's airport.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Atlantis to Land on Earth, Permanently.


Salute to Atlantis! The first landing opportunity for Atlantis’ planned final mission is Wednesday at 8:48 a.m. EDT at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., [NASA LIVE Webcast]. If Atlantis is unable to land Wednesday, additional opportunities are available at Kennedy on Thursday at 9:13 a.m. and 10:48 a.m. There are opportunities Friday at Kennedy and backup landing site Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. For recorded updates about landing, call 321-867-2525. On the landing of Atlantis, the United States is down to only two human space launches ending the space shuttle era in November 2010.

RECORD SKYDIVE SET FOR NEW MEXICO


Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian daredevil, hopes to to break a 50-year-old record this summer in New Mexico when he begins a sky dive from 120,000 feet, or almost 23 miles above the earth’s surface jumping from a capsule and going nearly 700 mph down breaking the sound barrier, reports CNN.

It’s unclear from the CNN story where in New Mexico Baumgartner’s jump will happen. It’s sponsored by Red Bull, which probably adds to New Mexico’s allure as a place for far-out, space-related stuff - like those recognized along the New Mexico Space Trail.

The previous record for highest sky dive was set in 1960 when U.S. Air Force jumper Joe Kittinger started a descent from 102,800 feet near White Sands, New Mexico, CNN tells us. The sport of breaking the Kittinger record and launch the extreme sport of space diving in the next decade has been discussed for the past few years among space advocates.

Monday, May 24, 2010

WISE is busy mapping asteroids!


NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, is busy surveying the landscape of the infrared sky, building up a catalog of cosmic specimens -- everything from distant galaxies to "failed" stars, called brown dwarfs to asteroids.

WISE is picking out an impressive collection of asteroids and comets, some known and some never seen before. Most of these hang out in the Main Belt between Mars and Jupiter, but a small number are near-Earth objects -- asteroids and comets with orbits that pass within about 48 million kilometers (30 million miles) of Earth's orbit. By studying a small sample of near-Earth objects, WISE will learn more about the population as a whole. How do their sizes differ, and how many objects are dark versus light?

So far, the WISE mission has observed more than 60,000 asteroids, both Main Belt and near-Earth objects. Most were known before, but more than 11,000 are new. About 190 near-Earth asteroids (NEOs) have been observed to date, of which more than 50 are new discoveries. WISE may help determine which asteroids humans should visit first under the Obama space plan now under consideration in the Congress.

The Moon Needs You!

National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" segment ran with a story today calling upon professional and amateur astronomers to lend a hand in the lunar data coming from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) now in orbit about the Moon [NPR]. Two weeks ago, Scientific American published a story, pushed by NASA, entitled: "Your chance to be a lunar scientist" through the new program called Moon Zoo.

Apollo 14's Mitchell Takes Space Policy Position for the Moon and Private Sector

Dr. Edgar Mitchell, a moon walker of Apollo 14, penned an article Sunday published in the TC Palm (Beach, Florida) newspaper in which he states, " I urge President Barack Obama to continue moon missions as an important flight destination for testing next-generation rocket propulsion systems" while he commends the president "decision to strengthen the private sector’s role in the space program. The intellectual energy of scientists and inventors, as well as private entrepreneurs, will catapult Earth’s people into a space-faring race."

Compared to his former Apollo astronaut colleagues, Mitchell takes the more middle ground by not ceding the moon to near-term exploration but supporting propulsion innovation and the involvement of the commercial space launch sector.

As founder and chief science officer of Quantrek, Dr. Mitchell collaborates with progressive scientists and experts in the fields of propulsion systems, as well as other applications of frontier science emerging from discovery of zero-point energy. He is a "strong proponent of a manned mission to Mars, and see moon missions as a prerequisite for testing spacecraft propelled by advanced propulsion systems, such as zero-point energy that can travel to Mars and deeper into space."

In Dr. Mitchell's 1996 book, The Way of the Explorer, the lunar astronaut developed a "dyadic" model of paired opposites-mind/matter, life/death, etc.-that he also covers here and that owes as much to quantum physics' wave/particle duality as to Taoism's yin/yang. Mitchell isn't afraid to go out on a limb; his contention that the universe "intended" to evolve to higher levels, for example, goes against mainstream Western science, [audio interview].

Meanwhile, Apollo lunar era astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Rusty Schweickart have been supportive of the new presidential space policy to advance humans to an asteroid while Neil Armstrong, Eugene Cernan, (these two appearing twice on Capitol Hill) and Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt have been among the most outspoken critics of the president's new policy space and destination.

Lunar Apollo astronauts Cernan, Harrison, Walter Cunningham, Alan Bean, Al Worden, Jim McDivitt, Fred Haise, Jim Lovell, Charlie Duke, Frank Borman, and Dick Gordon were among those signing a letter to the president objecting to the discontinuance of the lunar Constellation Ares-1 and Ares-V program.

Absent the space policy debate has been veteran lunar and shuttle astronaut John Young, now retired, who has in the past been supportive of new technologies and asteroid surveys.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Humans Beyond the Earth-Moon System

USA Today journalist Dan Vergano this Sunday evening published an interesting article entitled: "Asteroids emerge as next frontier of space exploration" pointing to the new and recent destination goal set by the president. In which Vergano writes "An astronaut 'sprint' mission would three to five years later [2025], with a 20- to 75-day outbound trip, a one- to two-week stay and a 45-day trip home, 'marking humanity's first foray beyond the Earth—Moon system,' says the December [NASA] study." [Vid NEOnauts].

Some see the asteroids as the logical next step beyond the surface of the Moon; asteroids as the next step to the exo-moon of Mars; and, the surface of The Red Planet below. The presidential directive does provide a human space map. A map of human expansion beyond the Earth -Moon system and ultimately to the Jovian moon Europa before the end of this century, if one is willing to look ahead.

Federal law does require survey of all near Earth asteroids (NEO's) of any significant size for these objects may hold many keys to knowledge, resource supplies, and more Earthly dangers as these NEO asteroids do lurk and perhaps with damaging human impact.

The goals are high. They shall require the combined efforts of spacefaring governments and their commercial space launch elements from around the blue and partly cloudy globe to achieve human but commercial exploration of the Moon, and NASA-driven human missions to the asteriods, exo-Moon Phobos, the surface of Mars, the Asteroid Belt and on to the surface of a new water world.

Atlantis Departs Station for Earth Final Time


FULL SCREEN VID -- The Space Shuttle Atlantis has departed the International Space Station (ISS) and is set for a final landing at the Kennedy Space Center Wednesday, May 26, 2010. Upon its return to Earth, Atlantis will be prepared for flight as an emergency rescue ship for the final shuttle mission now set for November, but is not expected to launch despite efforts of some advocates to provide it one more flight in 2011.

Atlantis lifted off on its final mission May 14 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida and delivered the Russian-built Mini Research Module-1 to the ISS that will provide additional storage space and a new docking port for Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft. Astronauts conducted three spacewalks to install six new batteries for the station.

Space shuttles Discovery and Endeavour scheduled for their last missions in September and November to the ISS bringing a conclusion to the nearly 30-year program of orbital operations. Endeavour will carrying a $2-billion, multinational particle detector known as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the ISS.

Star City is the Human Space Gateway

While Star City, Russia will become the only viable gateway for humans to get to orbital space whether they be Russian, American, or some other nationality next year, excepting the Chinese, the Russian government has declared 2011 the Year of the Cosmonaut to add oomph to the 50th anniversary of Yuri Garagin's first orbital human flight next April 12th.

Star City is where the training facilities for all who fly aboard a Soyuz spacecraft that will soon become the only vehicle to dock at the International Space Station with the retirement of the space shuttle after only two more scheduled launches later this year.

Those planning a trek into Russia in the next 18-months or so may wish to consider a visit to Star City to get a piece of space history first hand since - Star City is where the first commercial cosmonauts trained for the Mir Corp flight, all of the commercial space flight participants in this first decade of the 21st century and many-a-government sponsored cosmonaut and astronaut from around the globe over the past fifty years have been to prepare for their orbital journeys. There may even be commercial spaceflight participants planning to circle the Moon in 2011 who will train at Star City soon.

The Star City Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center has engaged programs for the hearty and less intensive tours of the varied Russian space museums and space facilities available to foreign tourists including the Russian International Space Station Mission Control Center outside of Moscow a few miles. And, if you have $30-million and lots of time to spare, you may find yourself trained at Star City and on your way to the Baikonur Cosmodrome's launch pad.

X51-A Waiverider Flight Test Set for Tuesday


The Boeing X-51 is an unmanned scramjet demonstration aircraft for hypersonic (Mach 7, around 8,050 km/h) flight testing. The X-51 WaveRider program is a consortium of the US Air Force, DARPA, NASA, Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. The program is managed by the Propulsion Directorate within the United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).The X-51 has flown on a B-52 and is expected to have its first flight as early as May 25, 2010. More from The Register.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

MARS 500 International Crew Selected


At the beginning of June, three Russian astronauts will be joined by Chinese, Italian and French colleagues on a simulated mission lasting 520 days sealed inside a simulated interplanetary spacecraft, the men will mimic the effects of traveling, researching and living in space for the duration of a year and a half while still on the ground in Moscow. The mission is a groundbreaking study that will show the stress put on astronauts during such lengthy missions, particularly a potential journey to Mars.

A commission of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medical and Biological Problems last Tuesday named the crew. “There are four Russian citizens – two doctors, Sukhrob Kamolov and Alexander Smoleyevsky, and two engineers, Alexei Sityov and Mikhail Sinelnikov, two European engineers – Romain Charles of France and Diego Urbina of Italy, and China’s Wan Yue on the crew,” experiment director Boris Morukov said.

A Russian will be the crew commander. Another two crewmembers will become the flight engineer and the doctor. Three will be researchers. Each function must be duplicated because the experiment will be rather complicated. The three researchers will ‘land’ on the Martian surface.

English and Russian will be the working languages, but three researchers from Europe and China do not speak Russian. “A special sign language has been agreed upon for avoiding possible misunderstandings,” Morukov said. The Russian Energia Aerospace Corporation developed the flight plan.

More from ITN News and BBC reports.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Great Space Policy Debate Set for ISDC

The National Space Society (NSS) has organized a debate between Mars Society President Robert Zubrin and Apollo Astronaut Rusty Schweickart on the subject of the new Obama space policy. The debate will take place on the afternoon of Saturday, May 29 at the National Space Society's International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in Chicago. Zubrin has been critical of the new space policy, while Schweickart has been strongly supportive, so the debate promises to be a very exciting event. With any luck, Schweickart's position may get a boost from Elon Musk May 28.

Ariane 5 Makes 50th Space Launch


On Friday evening, May 21, 2010 Arianespace placed two communications satellites into geostationary transfer orbit: the ASTRA 3B commercial communications satellite for the Luxembourg-based operator SES ASTRA, and the COMSATBw-2 military communications satellite built by Astrium for the German Ministry of Defense. It was the 50th space launch of the Ariane V booster and the 36th consecutive launch without booster mishap. More from the BBC.

May 28, 2010 Launch Date for Falcon 9?

SpaceX may gain a Friday, May 28, 2010 launch window for sometime between 11 a.m. EDT and close at 3 p.m. EDT for the newly configured Falcon 9 booster test ultimately designed to provide re-supply and cargo to the International Space Station, according to a report from SpaceflightNow.

The maiden flight of the Falcon 9 may be hailed as the dawn of the commercial space age if successful. It may also provide some political capital to advocates of the Obama space policy on Capitol Hill in Washington providing the flight objectives are met.

Russian "Rassvet" or "Dawn" Now at ISS


The Russian-made $200-million Mini-Research Module-1 "Rassvet" or "Dawn" is now installed on the International Space Station by the STS-132 crew of space shuttle Atlantis. The new lab was opened for the first time on-orbit Thursday. More from the Christian Science Monitor.

Geometry Driving Mars Mission Decisions for the Launch in 2011 and the Landing in 2012


Continuing analysis of the geometry and communications options for the arrival at Mars have led planners for the Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity, to choose an Earth-to-Mars trajectory that schedules launch between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18, 2011. Landing will take place between Aug. 6 and Aug. 20, 2012. Due to an Earth-Mars planetary alignment, this launch period actually allows for a Mars arrival in the earlier portion of the landing dates under consideration. More from NASA JPL.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jupiter's Missing Belt


In a development that has transformed the appearance of the solar system's largest planet, one of Jupiter's two main cloud belts has completely disappeared. Known as the South Equatorial Belt (SEB), the brown cloudy band is twice as wide as Earth and more than twenty times as long. The loss of such an enormous "stripe" can be seen with ease halfway across the solar system. News outlets are reporting the planetary event at CNN, Sky&Tel, SpaceDaily, Economic Times, and MSNBC. Learn more about the planet Jupiter.

Japan Launches Venus Climate Orbiter!


Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the Venus Climate Orbiter "AKATSUKI" (PLANET-C) aboard H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 17 (H-IIA F17) at 6:58:22 a.m. on May 21, 2010 (Japan Standard Time, JST) from the Tanegashima Space Center. The launch vehicle flew smoothly, and, at about 27 minutes and 29 seconds after liftoff, the separation of the AKATSUKI was confirmed. The mission appears to be off to a good start. Here is more from the BBC, the Christan Science Monitor, MSNBC, and Novosti.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Last Space Shuttle: Retire On-Orbit Idea

Richard Goodwin and Dennis Wingo have provided NASA end of mission planners a unique idea of retiring the last space shuttle on-orbit. The idea appears to be worthy of consideration even if the shuttle launch manifest is pushed into 2011 for the long-duration space shuttle mission and to continue the legacy of the technology.

There were ideas similar to this early in the shuttle program to retire space shuttle external fuel tanks on-orbit to build a lower cost space station but contractors preferred a new systems build rather than retrofit an on-orbit tank. Perhaps this idea will fair better as it is a thought provoking worthy of serious consideration.

Obama Puts NASA Langley in Good Position


NASA's new chief technologist, Robert Braun, returned Tuesday to Hampton, Virginia and the place he used work to talk about the 'game changing' future of space.

Whitesides Talks Virgin Galatic

Manber Talks American Space Milestone

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Asteroid 1999 AO10 Human Mission Target

President Barack Obama has indicated that the United States should embark upon a human space mission to Asteroid 1999 AO10 by 2025 with an unmanned mission to the Near Earth Object (NEO), according to plans taking form within the federal space agency.

Previous identified as an option for human spaceflight, the asteroid mission is gaining currency within the science and space advocacy communities with three human launch opportunities in 2025, 2026 and 2032 – with three robotic precursor opportunities in 2019, 2020, or 2021.

The plan now envisioned at NASA would have humans spending 14-days at the asteroid for an deep space journey of about 150-days or about the average expedition length stay now at the International Space Station. A successful human asteroid mission would begin to build capability for a planetary defense against an NEO-Earth impact.

Sen. Warner Steps-Up for Commercial Space

Last week there was a lot of media coverage of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing on the Obama space plan with two Apollo Era astronauts stepping to the witness table for pictures and ink but it was Virginia Senator Mark R. Warner that caught the eye of the NewSpace community with his pro-commercial space comments.

Senator Warner stated, “I do think there’s interesting opportunities to leverage off of things like the X PRIZE Foundation and the kind of energy that that generated in this sector … I think it [commercialization] holds some great possibilities and opportunities, particularly possibilities for Wallops as a facility in the commonwealth of Virginia.”

Wallops (or 'Space Island') is the commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located in Virginia’s Accomack County where Orbital Sciences Corporation will be launching commercial cargo to the International Space Station beginning next year atop a Taurus II booster.

Space advocates throughout Virginia were pleased to see Senator Warner step-up in the committee to provide support to the fledgling commercial space sector taking root on the Delmarva Peninsula. Additional commercial space launch orbital carriers are being welcomed in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Monday, May 17, 2010

PLANET-C to Venus and Solar Sail Project Launch Delayed by Weather in Japan


Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has announced a decision to 'scrub' the May 18, 2010 first launch attempt of the Venus Climate Orbiter "AKATSUKI" (PLANET-C) by H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 17 (H-IIA F17) because of inclement weather conditions at the Tanegashima Space Center. A new launch date has been set by launch team managers for Friday, May 21, 2010 at 6:58 AM Japan Standard Time (JST). More from the BBC.

Cassini to Remotely Sense Enceladus and Titan on Flyby Around Planet Saturn

About a month and a half after its last double flyby, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will be turning another double play this week, visiting the geyser moon Enceladus and the hazy moon Titan. The alignment of the moons means that Cassini can catch glimpses of these two contrasting worlds within less than 48 hours, with no maneuver in between.

Cassini will make its closest approach to Enceladus late at night on May 17 Pacific time, which is in the early hours of May 18 UTC. The spacecraft will pass within about 435 kilometers (270 miles) of the moon's surface.

The main scientific goal at Enceladus will be to watch the sun play peekaboo behind the water-rich plume emanating from the moon's south polar region. Scientists using the ultraviolet imaging spectrograph will be able to use the flickering light to measure whether there is molecular nitrogen in the plume. Ammonia has already been detected in the plume and scientists know heat can decompose ammonia into nitrogen molecules. Determining the amount of molecular nitrogen in the plume will give scientists clues about thermal processing in the moon's interior.

The second of Cassini's two flybys is an encounter with Titan. The closest approach will take place in the late evening May 19 Pacific time, which is in the early hours of May 20 UTC. The spacecraft will fly to within 1,400 kilometers (750 miles) of the surface.

Cassini will primarily be doing radio science during this pass to detect the subtle variations in the gravitational tug on the spacecraft by Titan, which is 25 percent larger in volume than the planet Mercury. Analyzing the data will help scientists learn whether Titan has a liquid ocean under its surface and get a better picture of its internal structure. The composite infrared spectrometer will also get its southernmost pass for thermal data to fill out its temperature map of the smoggy moon.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Asteroid Once Struck the Heart of Appalachia

The eastern Kentucky town of Middlesboro, as planetary scientists now tell us, is a geological 4-mile wide crater resulting from an asteroid impact some 200-to-300 million years ago with the impact center on the country club site in the heart of the Appalachian mountain community in the Cumberland Gap where Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky come together.

Greater knowledge of the meteor impact has only come to light in recent years through the efforts of Kentucky geologists and planetary scientists from around the world. Just this past spring, the British Broadcasting Corporation featured renowned particle physicist Brian Cox telling English TV-watchers of "the Middlesboro Crater" and the many global dangers associated with thousands of similar asteroids now roaming space.

The Middlesboro Crater is a result of an asteroid-turned-meteor colliding with Earth's upper atmosphere on a trajectory into the Central Appalachian Mountains from a location somewhere near the planet Jupiter. It all happened millions of years before man arrived on Earth with satellite and aerial imagery now confirming the massive crater.

The meteor would have been more than 1,500 feet in diameter and upon impact, it would have created a ground impact crater zone nearly four miles in diameter and exactly where the town of Middlesboro is today.

From these theoretical mathematical impact measurements, the immediate environmental impacts may be calculated as understanding of the event grows from geologic and cosmic evidence while adding a cosmic dimension to Central Appalachian Mountain natural history. Update: The Kingsport Times News, June 5, 2010.

Atlantis Lifts to Orbit on Final Voyage to ISS


There were numerous views and human reactions at the Kennedy Space Center as the space shuttle Atlantis took to orbit on its last flight setting-up a view of a double-flyby for viewers on Earth.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Shuttle-Station Double Flyby for Weekend


Space shuttle Atlantis is about to leave Earth on its final voyage to the ISS. An on-time launch from Kennedy Space Center today at 2:20 pm EDT would set the stage for an incredible sky show this weekend. On Saturday and Sunday evenings, many observers will be able to see the ISS and Atlantis flying past Venus and the crescent Moon. Get the full story from Science at NASA.

Voyager 2 Data Link Changes; Raises Questions as to the Radio Transmissions


The Voyager 2 spacecraft, launched in 1977 and now 92 Austronomical Units (AU) from the sun, is expected to have electric power until 2025 as it is slated to travel beyond the solar system before mission end. But a recent glitch in the software programming has a number of scientists from around the world and at NASA JPL scratching their heads - some now even pointing to the remote possiblity of alien contact!

A NASA insider said: “This is probably just a faulty machine spouting gibberish. But the idea it could have been found by intelligent life has excited people. If true, it could change the world in an instant," in an amusing report from The Daily Star.

Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 will have been in space 33-years this coming summer.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

STS-132 on the Launch Pad Ready to 'GO!'

The countdown continues for launch of the shuttle Atlantis Friday on its 32nd and final planned mission, a 12-day three-spacewalk flight to deliver a Russian module and fresh solar array batteries to the International Space Station, setting the stage for a launch attempt at 2:20 p.m. Friday, May 14, 2010 roughly the moment Earth's rotation carries launch pad 39A into the plane of the space station's orbit. More from SpaceflightNow and NASA. Launch coverage will be provided by NASA-TV.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Open House to Feature 'Camera that Saved Hubble'

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., invites the public to a close-up look at JPL's past, present and future at its annual Open House on Saturday, May 15, and Sunday, May 16, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event, themed "Worlds Beyond," features displays and demonstrations from numerous space missions, and a first look at JPL's recently renovated von Karman Visitor Center.

On special display will be the JPL-built Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, retrieved from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope last year by space-walking astronauts. The instrument, affectionately known as the "Camera that Saved Hubble," is on loan from the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum. The camera captured many of Hubble's iconic space images.

Other Open House highlights include: seeing JPL's next spacecraft bound for Mars, Mars Science Laboratory, under construction in the lab's largest "clean room;" life-size rover models in a "Mars" test bed; and JPL's Microdevices Lab, where engineers and scientists use tiny technology to revolutionize space exploration. Visitors can also see the sun through solar-safe telescopes, and learn how NASA instruments help scientists better understand global climate change.

JPL Open House provides a memorable experience for adult and kids,with plenty of hands-on activities, and opportunities to talk with scientists and engineers. Selected locations at Open House will be featured live online on Ustream TV at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasajpl on Sat., May 15, at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. Pacific time (1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. Eastern time). Each time slot will feature a new location at the top of each hour.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

First and Last Men on the Moon to Testify

Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, is scheduled to testify before a U.S. Senate Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Wednesday, May 12, 2010 in Washington on the future of NASA to be joined by Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the lunar surface, the panel said.

The two astronauts will be joined at the hearing by John Holdren, director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and Norman Augustine, the former Lockheed Martin Corp. chairman who headed a presidential panel that issued a report last year on the future of the U.S. space program, reports Bloomberg News.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Professor Brian Cox in Just Five Minutes

The Times Change, The Challenges Remain


Now more than forty-nine years ago, President John F. Kennedy spoke of the technology challenges for a large booster rocket, the type of technology to be used, and the effort to get humans to the Moon. Fifty years later, much remains the same. Yet this time there are commercial space launch dreamers to carry the to reality of going back to the Moon --- with the unique blessing of a modern United States President.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Wonders of the Solar System with Brian Cox

Wonders of the Solar System is a BBC produced series that provides an entertaining view of the magnificence associated with nature narrated by Brit Professor Brian Cox, PhD., a particle physicist, a Royal Society research fellow and renowned science communicator. Dr. Cox has received many awards for his efforts to publicise science. Begin the video series here. Viewers will find the production no less than EXCELLENT (purchased by Blogger).

Wonders Of The Solar System: Episode 1 - Empire of the Sun; Episode 2 - Order out of Chaos; Episode 3 - The Thin Blue Line; Episode 4 - Dead or Alive; and, Episode 5 - Aliens. The entire programming is five hours but worthy of every minute (IMHO). Some have called Brian Cox the modern day Carl Sagan.

JAXA Space Agency Activities 2010


The video linked above reviews JAXA's major activities in Japanese Fiscal Year 2009, not only manned space programs, but also space utilization with satellites, space science research, aeronautical technology research, basic technology research, and space transportation systems including launch vehicles.

Herschel Infrared Space Telescope- Year 1


After only its first year in space, ESA's Herschel infrared space observatory is changing the way scientists view the Universe. From nearby celestial objects to distant ones, from the smallest molecules to the largest galaxies, Herschel is revealing new details about how the Universe behaves.

Interstellar Space Probe Idea Revisited


Space journalist Leonard David provided insight to the future of interstellar spaceflight possibilities with the article "Futuristic Interstellar Space Probe Idea Revisited" describing how a dedicated study team has formed Project Icarus, an international initiative of the U.S.-based Tau Zero Foundation in collaboration with the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) with the purpose delving into everything under our the sun to develop designs for the interstellar spaceship, from inertial confinement fusion to reviewing the latest in nanotechnology, computing, and electronics, as well as identifying target star destinations.

Friday, May 07, 2010

May 12 Senate Commerce Full Hearing Set

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will conduct a full committee hearing on the future of U.S. human space flight on May 12, 2010, 2:30 PM, Russell Senate Office Building - 253 in Washington, D.C. It will be webcast.

MSNBC space journalist Alan Boyle says 'the word' is that it will be a most interesting hearing. There could be glimpses of a grand compromise in the works. Hopefully, many of the Senators with commercial space interests will show-up for the hearing and provide a measure of support for the president's space policy.

NBC News journalist Jay Barbee reports that the White House and Congress are in the first steps of a compromise among NASA, the White House and Congress have been hammering out the details of a three-pronged plan for America’s future in space.

X-51A Waverider Tests Set for Late May 2010


In the last week of May, thousands of square miles of airspace above the Pacific Ocean will be cleared to make way for a skinny, shark-nosed aircraft called the X-51A, reports New Scientist.

Will SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch in May?

The SpaceX Falcon 9 booster rocket is sitting on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla awaiting a firm launch date sometime this month --- Sunday, May 23rd, perhaps later. SpaceX is working to gain the necessary flight hardware approvals of the USAF range officers and get a date that fits with the space shuttle launch/landing and the scheduled May 20 launch of a Delta IV booster with the Air Force’s Global Positioning System IIF-SV1 satellite.

When the Falcon 9 rides the flame into the sky, the dawn of the commercial space era will be sounded more clearly in Florida, the nation, and around-the-globe.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Orion Tested in New Mexico


Pad Abort 1 (PA-1) launched Thursday, May 6,2010 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. PA-1 is the first fully integrated flight test of the launch abort system being developed for the Orion crew exploration vehicle.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Atlantis on 'Final Countdown' to May 14


On May 14, 2010 at 2:20 p.m. the space shuttle Atlantis with a six member crew compliment will be on the final countdown to liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. on a 12-day mission to rendevouz and dock with the International Space Station for the last time. The Atlantis spacecraft is slated to be retired at the STS-132 mission end.

The goals are to beef up storage space with a Russian mini research module weighing 17,000 pounds. The module is 23-feet long. NASA also have plans for a new docking port for Soyuz and Progress spacecraft. Three astronaut spacewalks are planned to put spare parts outside the station if needed and replace six large batteries.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Awating permission to launch in Virginia?

Augusta County, Va. has its own "Rocket Boys" who seek to recast the "October Sky" movie plot into 21st century redux complete with government regulatory action and courtroom drama.

But the scene is not from a small coal-mining town of 1960. Today's scene is on 500-acre rural farm where hundreds of youngsters, accompanied by parents and skilled rocket enthusiasts, gathered to learn teamwork, a host of new skills, and to dream new dreams of taking to spaceflight.

The local Rocket Boys of 2010 are not much different of those in the true-to-life book and movie. This league of rocketeers, organized as Valley Aerospace, value science, technology, engineering, mathematics outside of the classroom and in the fields of Virginia; a state that values people who dare look-up to the new frontiers of opportunity in space.

Such a daring and diligent effort had lead Virginia-based Valley Aerospace student entrants into national model rocket launch competitions and bringing student honors to Virginia while setting a positive community example for others to follow. Or, so one might have thought.

Smothered by an Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals decision, the action has left the land owner-sanctioned and Federal Aviation Administration-approved model rocket launch pads silent since late 2009. The educational rocket launch issue is now in judicial review and awaits a go no-go launch decision by a state circuit court judge.

Unfortunately, it is the adult decision-makers whose judgment and motivation that must now be questioned to withhold such life-building concepts from their children. Perhaps some serious soul searching among the appropriate county officials to reconsider the initial short-sighted decision will bear fruit before the winter cold inhibits quality education time with cardboard and balsa wood rocket builders. Otherwise, this legal cause will not take to shelter.

The whole affair should not have taken this unbecoming trajectory. The legal case should be made moot by the better course of action; a donation of time to help the young rocketeers; not an action that denies them "one small step" to later become more educated adult citizens.

In a state expending millions to prepare real-life rocket launch pads to soon ferry supplies and cargo to the orbiting International Space Station next year and to boost a satellite to the moon in 2012, we find a narrow-minded shut down of our most highly-valued human asset, our youth, to learn the 'right stuff.' We are now in a world where China and India graduate more engineers and scientists in a single year than Americans will in the next decade, the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals capricious action screams for rapid resolution and a keener sense of justice.

Augusta County should allow its children "the rocket's red glare" to safely launch and return their egg payloads without days in a circuit court; that is unless Virginia needs more aspiring lawyers instead of scientists and engineers. WVTF News radio report.