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Thursday, March 31, 2011

The BBC Goes Inside SpaceShipTwo

The BBC's Richard Scott is the first journalist to be allowed inside the Virgin Galactic spaceship and files this report.

Something Big Is Coming from SpaceX

Zubrin Advances Heavy-Lift for Mars

Dr. Robert Zubrin, President & Founder of the Mars Society, gave an address at the University of Washington in Seattle on February 25, 2011 on his "Mars Direct" plan and efforts to send humans to the Red Planet within a decade.

Earth's Gravitation Map Revealed by ESA

After just two years in orbit, ESA's GOCE satellite has gathered enough data to map Earth's gravity with unrivalled precision. Scientists now have access to the most accurate model of the 'geoid' ever produced to further our understanding of how Earth works, according to the European Space Agency.

NASA JPL Provides 3-D Images of Mars

Get out your red-cyan glasses and travel with NASA spacecraft. See everything from solar flares to rover tracks on Mars... in 3-D. Images in order of appearance are from the following: Mars Pathfinder, Phoenix Mars Lander, Spirt and Opportunity Rovers, the HiRISE camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Deep Space Network antennae, STEREO mission to the sun and Voyager, provided by NASA JPL.

LEND Looking for Water on the Moon

How would you find out where to look for water on the Moon? NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has a unique answer: Count the neutrons coming from the Moon! By measuring the relative amounts of slow and fast neutrons coming from soil on the Moon, scientists think they can estimate the amount of hydrogen. And it's believed that where there's hydrogen, there might also be water! Find out more about LEND by watching this video from the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ariane 5 rocket aborts launch at Kourou

An Ariane 5 rocket countdown at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana was cut off seconds before liftoff on March 30,2011 in a dramatic abort after the launcher's hydrogen-fueled main engine ignited The aborted launch was due to a main engine glitch seven seconds after the engine ignited. A new launch date will be set after determining the exact nature of the launch malfunction. More from Video: Arianespace.

ESA Satellite Radar Data Show Japan's Earthquake Displacement

Satellite images have been essential for helping relief efforts in Japan following the massive quake that struck on 11 March. Now scientists are using ESA’s space radars to improve our understanding of tectonic events.

Scientists are calling on data from the advanced radar on ESA’s Envisat satellite to map surface deformations caused by the magnitude-9 earthquake. Studying data acquired on 19 February and 21 March, scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have detected a ground shift of about 2.5 m eastwards and a downward motion of Honshu Island’s east coast.

Scientists from Italy’s Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia have used the same Envisat data to show a large portion of the surface displacement, with a maximum shift of 2.5 m, according to the ESA.

MESSENGER Takes First Picture While in Mercury's Orbit: Many more to come!

The MESSENGER spacecraft captured its first image of Mercury since entering the planet's orbit. The picture was of previously unseen terrain near the small, rocky planet's south pole. The snapshot is part of the "checkout phase" conducted for the spacecraft that'll include its taking around 75,000 images of Mercury's surface. Full operations to study the planet's geology, formation and history are scheduled to begin April 4, 2011.

Successful Re-entry of Japanese HTV2

The Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle "KOUNOTORI2" (HTV2) successfully re-entered the atmosphere over the East Coast of New Zealand after the third de-orbit maneuver at 11:44 a.m. on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 (JST). The HTV2 successfully accomplished the main objective of shipping cargo to the International Space Station, and completed all of its mission objectives over 67 days with today's re-entry.

Monday, March 28, 2011

HTV-2 Kounotori to Make Last Call to Japan

The spacecraft, Japan's unmanned cargo ship Kounotori 2, is due to intentionally burn up Tuesday when it re-enters Earth's atmosphere one day after leaving the International Space Station. In addition to the station trash packed on Kounotori 2, a high-tech sensor is ready to track the finer details of the spacecraft's doom, writes Leonard David for A so-called Re-entry Breakup Recorder – or REBR for short – small and autonomous sensors will record the firey re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. It shuld provide some quite interesting video on the pull through the gravity well.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Yuri Gagarin Feted as April 12th Approaches

Lunar lava tube could be settlement location

The Moon Society notes that the Indian Space Research Organization, has released a paper detailing the discovery of a 1.72 kilometer long (5,733 ft.) intact lava tube section in the south western reaches of Oceanus Procellarum, the Ocean of Storms.

The data was compiled by Chandrayaan-1's Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC), one of the eleven science instruments on board India's first lunar orbiter, launched October 22, 2008.

"The TMC image is in the panchromatic spectral range of 0.5–0.75 μm with a stereo view in the fore, nadir and aft directions of the spacecraft movement and with a high spatial resolution of 5 m at an orbital height of 100 km (ref. 1), to enable three-dimensional viewing of the lunar surface with crisp and clear surface features and morphology.

"The Digital Elevation Model (DEM) generated from the three look angles enables morphometric study of various lunar features, thus furnishing topographic relief and dimensions of various morphological entities. "Identifying sites for permanent base stations for possible human settlement on the Moon is important for long-term perspective of lunar exploration."

Lunar and Mars lava tubes are possible settlement locations for a human survival. A nexus between lunar water and lunar lava tubes is also being considered.

Sand Seas of the Solar System Explored

There are four worlds in our Solar System that have substantial atmospheres and observable surfaces: Venus, Earth, Mars, and Titan. The effects of an atmosphere interacting with a surface are clear: each of these planetary bodies has sand seas covering some fraction of its surface. Hidden within the morphology of these dunes lies a record of climate change that scientists are only beginning to understand, according to Dr. Lori Fenton.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Creating Global Catalog of the Moon's Surface

With LRO's wide angle camera, scientists can create a global catalog of the mountains, craters, and rilles on the moon.

NASA NAUTILUS-X: a reusable in-space vehicle proposal at $3.7 billion

Clark Lindsey [Hobby Space] provides an excellent overview of the proposed $3.7 billion NASA NAUTILUS-X: multi-mission exploration vehicle includes centrifuge, which would be tested at ISS. The latest presentations to the Future in Space Operations (FISO) group were given by Mark Holderman and Edward Henderson of NASA JSC. Narrated Video.

Key Elements:
- Long-duration space journey vehicle for crew of 6 for periods of 1 -24 months
- CIS-lunar would be initial Operations Zone [shakedown phase]
- Exo-atmospheric, Space-only vehicle
- Integrated Centrifuge for Crew Health
- Life Support in deployed Large Volume with shirt-sleeve servicing
- Truss & Stringer thrust-load distribution concept (non-orthogird)
- Capable of utilizing variety of Mission-Specific
- Propulsion Units [integrated in LEO, semi-autonomously
- Utilizes Inflatable & Deployed structures
- Incorporates Industrial Airlock for construction/maintenance
- Integrated RMS
- Supports Crewed Celestial-body Descent/Return Exploration vehicle
- Utilizes Orion/Commercial vehicles for crew rotation & Earth return from LEO

Kennedy beach house a part of history

The Things That Separate Us....

The things that separate us are not nearly as important as the things that unite us. Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, gives us her perspective as we approach April 12, 2011 - Yuri's Night.

Polet AirLaunch Reviewed by Roscosmos

Russians Promote SubOrbital Space Tours

The Russian space agency notes that space tourism is nearing a reality.

Venus Transit of Sun in June 2012

NASA EDGE promotes their live coverage in Hawaii for a major unique and predictable astronomical event in 2012 - the Transit of Venus!

Nuclear energy should evolve from fission to fusion sooner rather than later

Atomic energy technology evolution should remain a key cornerstone of American energy policy in the wake of the Japanese reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Evolution is the operative word, however. We need a "New Manhattan Project for Energy Independence" and there is a Virginia Congressman offering just such an innovative plan.

There is a very significant difference among nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, and nuclear fusion-fission hybrid reactors. Permit me very briefly to seek to differentiate the three energy technologies so we may better understand the options ahead.

Nuclear fission brought us the powerful atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and an American nuclear missile arsenal second to none in the world. The same fission nuclear energy has brought us disastrous partial or full atomic reactor core meltdowns at Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, and Fukushima in 2011. Peaceful nuclear fusion at 104 nuclear plants spread throughout the United States has brought us electricity for decades. Nuclear power will continue to serve us in the years ahead as a part of the American energy strategy.

Fission energy is an inherently dangerous way to generate large amounts of electricity. Fission leads to radioactive byproducts that are very nasty to the environment for hundreds of years and require expensive geological repositories, such as the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste planned for Nevada. Globally, we have balanced the health and environmental risks with the ravenous energy demand for fifty or so years, mostly with success. There is a much better way for atomic energy, however. We do not face a Hobson's choice.

Nuclear fusion is a cutting-edge energy technology yet to materialize on commercial-scale. Called a 'Star in a Jar' - scientists seek to replicate the energy of our sun on Earth. Nonetheless, nuclear engineers and atomic physicists have been working for years to create fusion reactors that will produce clean and relatively cheap electric power without any of the risks associated with bomb-grade plutonium, radioactive core meltdown or spent fuel rods. Post-modern fusion power will generate hot plasma contained in a magnetic bubble to turn steam turbines for electric power. Experts say that the technology is still years away from a successful commercial fusion power plant, yet we must be determined to perfect it. Fusion is the goldilocks of the energy grid and space propulsion without the harmful side effects associated with fission. We must build the demonstration plants to get there in the years ahead.

One of the key leaders of fusion energy technology presented to the Southwestern Virginia Technology Council's Energy Summit- 3 held in Wise in April 2010. Dr. George Miley, a distinguished Professor of Nuclear Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has pioneered an innovative approach generating useful energy from fusion. The award-winning professor now has former graduate students-turned-professionals working for fusion energy solutions. There are, nonetheless, fusion demonstrator efforts underway around the globe today.

Unlike the conventional fission reactor, the fusion-fission hybrid can consume almost all of the uranium fuel without enrichment or reprocessing thereby reducing the fuel cycle costs. This has the major advantage for non-proliferation of nuclear weapons production associated with enrichment and reprocessing technologies. The cost of reactor construction is more expensive than the traditional fission reactor, leading to the early evolution resistance. While only an interim step to pure fusion energy, the United States should lead with new fusion-fission hybrid reactors in the next decade as we press forward with fusion plasma reactors, as suggested by one insightful member of the Congress.

Virginia Congressman J. Randy Forbes, a conservative Chesapeake Republican, has introduced Congressional legislation, which may provide a pathway forward to energy independence in the next twenty years. His bill would nurture the promising nuclear fusion technology forward calling for a large-scale 300-megawatt fusion power plant as a part of a "New Manhattan Project for Energy Independence."

CNN and The Wall Street Journal have hailed the Forbes energy bill as one of the most innovative solutions for energy now before the Congress. The measure relies on innovation rather than taxation to pursue alternative energy. Two years ago, the New Manhattan Project for Energy Independence legislation was an alternative to the controversial cap-and-trade bill; the House, unfortunately, rejected the measure in 2009.

Congressman Forbes points out, "While we sit back and allow our gasoline prices to climb, nations like China are racing ahead in their efforts to achieve energy independence by seizing technological innovations and making marked progress in relatively unknown areas like fusion. The Chinese Academy of Science announced in December 2009 that it had begun a new round of controlled nuclear fusion experiments. Their success has already exceeded the progress of both the European Union and American nuclear experts, who recently reengaged in fusion research."

Nuclear fusion remains relatively unexplored in the United States and is a promising source of energy that can move the United States toward energy independence in the next two decades. The New Manhattan Project for Energy Independence is a means to harness the best in American creativity and ingenuity by creating a competitive environment for scientists and researchers to achieve nuclear fusion energy evolution. Full implementation of the Forbes fusion energy bill may catapult the United States into a worldwide energy producer and exporter again, in my judgment.

Congressman Forbes merits the attention of his Congressional colleagues in seeking to advance the cause of nuclear fusion in this session. It is clear that the Atomic Age has changed significantly with the meltdown of the Fukushima fission reactor cores in Japan. We need to embrace better fusion energy technology, as opposed to continuing with more fission reactors. The United States can lead the way in an evolution from radioactive fission to essentially harmless fusion over the next twenty years. H.R. 301 merits a Congressional hearing in the House Science, Space & Technology Committee's subcommittee on energy & environment and passage by the House.

A short-time colleague of mine while we served together in the Virginia House of Delegates in the late 1980's, it pleases me to see Congressman Randy Forbes leading where too few members of Congress are comfortable. Forbes would have our nation lead in advanced energy technologies through innovation, tax incentives, and a meaningful policy that will result in astounding energy evolution: fission to fusion energy production, sooner rather than later. Our national and global energy and economic future may depend upon elected officials and utility company leaders forging new energy policy like new fusion energy technologies.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

STS-134 Crew Holds Pre-flight Press Event

STS-134 Endeavour Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Greg Johnson and Mission Specialists Mike Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Drew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori discuss their upcoming mission to the International Space Station at their pre-flight news conference held at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The 14-day mission features the delivery to the ISS of the AMS, a sophisticated science instrument designed to help understand the origins of the universe.

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer Primary Payload to ISS Discussed by Scientist

The primary payload of STS-134, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is a state-of-the-art particle physics detector being constructed, tested and operated by an international team of 56 institutes from 16 countries and organized under United States Department of Energy (DOE) sponsorship. To be delivered to the International Space Station by space shuttle Endeavour next month, the AMS will use the unique environment of space to advance knowledge of the universe and its beginnings.

Final Space Walks Planned by Space Shuttle Crew at International Space Station

Mission managers detail what astronauts Drew Feustel, Mike Fincke and Greg Chamitoff hope to accomplish on the four spacewalks scheduled for STS-134 at the International Space Station. The three are slated to do maintenance work and install new components. These are the last scheduled spacewalks by shuttle crew members. Shuttle mission STS-134 is the final flight for Endeavour and the second to last flight for the Space Shuttle Program.

Dawn arrives at Vesta in July 2011

This video shows the scientists' best guess to date of what the surface of the protoplanet Vesta might look like. The NASA spacecraft Dawn arrives at Vesta in July 2011.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ESO Sees Cool Pair of Brown Dwarfs

Observations with the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, along with two other telescopes, have shown that there is a new candidate for the coldest known star: a brown dwarf in a double system with about the same temperature as a freshly made cup of tea — hot in human terms, but extraordinarily cold for the surface of a star. This object is cool enough to begin crossing the blurred line dividing small cold stars from big hot planets, notes the ESO.

Brown dwarfs are essentially failed stars: they lack enough mass for gravity to trigger the nuclear reactions that make stars shine. The newly discovered brown dwarf, identified as CFBDSIR 1458+10B, is the dimmer member of a binary brown dwarf system located just 75 light-years from Earth.

This sequence starts with a view of the constellation of Boötes (The Herdsman) and the bright star Arcturus. As we zoom in we can see many faint stars in the Milky Way. The final view shows an artist's impression of CFBDSIR 1458+10, the coolest pair of brown dwarfs found so far.

1st scientific results from ESA's Planck

The first scientific results from ESA's Planck mission are offering us new views on our Universe and its origins. The findings focus on the coldest objects in the Universe, from within our Galaxy to the distant reaches of space. This data forms the Early Release Compact Source Catalogue and already reveals the drama of the evolution of our Universe. Launched in May 2009 Planck is looking at the first light of the Universe 380.000 years after the Big Bang. This Video explains what Planck is unveiling with interview of Jan Tauber, ESA's Project Scientist for Planck.

'Wallops really packs a wallop'

SeaWiFS does 13 years of remote sensing

After 13 years of service, researchers are no longer able to communicate with SeaWiFS. This extremely important instrument, which gave scientists data on ocean color, filled in a vital information gap. Subtle changes in ocean color signify various types and quantities of marine phytoplankton (microscopic marine plants), the knowledge of which has both scientific and practical applications. US News Science provides more details.

Saturn is sending out mixed signals

Recent data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft show that the variation in radio waves controlled by the planet's rotation is different in the northern and southern hemispheres. Moreover, the northern and southern rotational variations also appear to change with the Saturnian seasons, and the hemispheres have actually swapped rates.

Saturn emits radio waves known as Saturn Kilometric Radiation, or SKR for short. To Cassini, they sound a bit like bursts of a spinning air raid siren, since the radio waves vary with each rotation of the planet. This kind of radio wave pattern had been previously used at Jupiter to measure the planet's rotation rate, but at Saturn the situation turned out to be much more complicated, NASA JPL.

Mir Space Station Deorbited One Decade Ago

One decade ago, March 21, 2001, the orbital complex "Mir" was deorbited into the Pacific Ocean after being placed into orbit in 1986. The Mir complex worked for 15-years, 10 of which it was constantly inhabited. In these years Mir had 15 expeditions: 104 cosmonauts and astronauts of 12 countries of world.

The Mir station was the first consistently inhabited long-term research station in space and was operated by a series of long-duration crews. The Mir programme held the record for the longest uninterrupted human presence in space, 3,644 days, until 23 October 2010 (when it was surpassed by the ISS), and it currently holds the record for the longest single human spaceflight, of Valeri Polyakov at 437 days 18 hours. Mir was occupied for a total of twelve and a half years of its fifteen-year lifespan, having the capacity to support a resident crew of three, and larger crews for short-term visits.

The Russians also contracted with Mir Corporation to enable the first efforts for a commercial space program.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

NASA Wallops Dedicates New Facility to Support Commercial Taurus-II Launches to ISS

NASA ushered in a new era of space exploration at its Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Tuesday with a ribbon cutting ceremony opening the new Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF), notes SpaceMart and WMDT-TV event video.

The HIF will support medium-class mission capabilities. The first customer to use the facility will be Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., with its Taurus II launch vehicle.

"With this state-of-the-art building, NASA demonstrates its commitment to the success of the nation's commercial launch industry," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "We have already seen some fantastic progress and are looking forward to more this year. Wallops, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and Orbital have been working together to bring the Taurus II vehicle to the launch pad this coming fall under tough mission schedules. That effort is impressive and a model we should emulate whenever possible."

Orbital will conduct missions for NASA under the agency's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services project and Commercial Resupply Services contract. Integration of the Taurus II at the new facility will begin this month, with the first launch expected later this year.

"Today is about bringing jobs, jobs and more jobs to the Lower Shore -- jobs for today and jobs for tomorrow," said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, chairwoman of the Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice and Science, which funds NASA. "I'm so happy to see our federal facilities like Wallops bringing the innovation economy to the community with this world-class international launch site that will soon launch science missions and take cargo to the International Space Station."

"The Horizontal Integration Facility is a vital part of our operation at the Wallops Flight Facility,"
said Dave Thompson, chairman and CEO of Orbital Sciences Corp. "The capability it provides to process two Taurus II vehicles simultaneously puts us in an excellent position to support NASA with missions to the International Space Station."

The facility is 250 feet long, 150 wide and 60 feet high. Its bay provides dual horizontal processing with 70-and 50-ton bridge cranes. Built in approximately 16 months, the HIF has adjacent laboratory and warehouse space. Its safety features include a deluge fire suppression system and a blast-attenuating wall, according to NASA. DELMARVA Now has more.

Soyuz TMA-21 Crew Training at Baikonur

The two Russian cosmonauts and one American astronaut of Soyuz TMA-21 Garagin train at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in preperation of the upcoming launch April 5, 2011 to the International Space Station.

There are "a lot of Earth analogs out there..." Kepler Scientists Suggest

Roughly one out of every 37 to one out of every 70 sunlike stars in the sky might harbor an alien Earth, a new study reveals. These findings hint that billions of Earthlike planets might exist in our galaxy, researchers added.

After the researchers analyzed the four months of data in this initial batch of readings from Kepler, they determined that 1.4 to 2.7 percent of all sunlike stars are expected to have Earthlike planets — ones that are between 0.8 and two times Earth's diameter and within the habitable zones of their stars, reports

"This means there are a lot of Earth analogs out there — two billion in the Milky Way galaxy," researcher Joseph Catanzarite, an astronomer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told "With that large a number, there's a good chance life and maybe even intelligent life might exist on some of those planets. And that's just our galaxy alone — there are 50 billion other galaxies."

Dr. Michio Kaku: “Physics of the Future”

Michio Kaku, an American physicist, the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics in the City College of New York of City University of New York, the co-founder of string field theory, is promting a new book - "The Physics of the Future." Dr. Kaku recently had tea with The Economist to discuss the next 100 years.

Brian Greene Discusses the Multiverse

You might think it's hard to have a conversation with theoretical physicist Brian Greene. His research specialty is superstring theory, the hypothesis that everything in the universe is made up of miniscule, vibrating strands of energy. Luckily for an interviewer, Greene has a knack for explaining difficult concepts to non-scientists. Greene takes the concept forward in a new book - "The Hidden Reality."

LockMart Orion Capsule Pushes Ahead

Orion is NASA’s next generation crew vehicle and will eventually replace the Space Shuttle system after the looming retirement of the three orbiter fleet, now reset to mid 2011. The Orion crew exploration vehicle is capable of supporting missions to low Earth orbit (LEO), the Moon, Asteroids and Deep Space.

NASA and Lockheed hope to launch the first unmanned Orion test flight in 2013, if the budget allows. A human crew is expected to fly in 2016, perhaps. Orion could be launched atop a Delta 4 Heavy booster after the rocket is man-rated.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring is Aurora Season: Get Ready!

Spring is aurora season. For reasons not fully understood by scientists, the weeks around the vernal equinox are prone to Northern Lights. Canadians walking their dogs after dinner, Scandinavians popping out to the sauna, Alaskan Huskies on the Iditarod trail—all they have to do is look up and behold, green curtains of light dancing across the night sky. Spring has arrived!
More from The Engineer (UK) and FoxNews.

UND NDX-1 planetary exploration suit system is being tested in Antarctica

University of North Dakota aerospace engineer and researcher Pablo de Leon is part of a unique mission to test a UND planetary exploration suit -- the NDX-1 -- at a remote military base in Antarctica. The team is now testing the suit design at the Antarctic base used by a the Argentine Air Force, reports FoxNews.

The Spaceward Bound Mission includes de Leon of the UND Department of Space Studies; NASA space biologist Jon Rask; and NASA astrobiologist Dr. Chris McKay. Rask is Senior Scientist and McKay is a planetary scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Ames Research near San Francisco, CA. The team also includes a field support and documentation specialist.

The team is expected to spend 7 to 10 days at the Marambio Station, Argentina’s main Antarctic base, to conduct a variety of tests with the NDX-1 planetary exploration suit system. The NDX-1 also has been tested extensively in the Badlands and at the Dahlen Esker in North Dakota, at the Mars Desert Research Center in Utah, and at the Ames Research Center, notes Reuters.

The NDX-1 was designed and constructed at UND through NASA funding provided by the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium. The team plans to blog this expedition; you can follow the team’s test routines at

Sunday, March 20, 2011

X-51A Waverider Readied for Flight Tuesday

Planned for Tuesday, March 22, 2011 an X-51A will be carried up to 50,000 feet slung underneath the wing of a B-52 from California's Edwards Air Force Base to fly over the Pacific Ocean, notes UPI.

The high-speed craft will be dropped, and a booster rocket will fire up to get the Waverider up to Mach 4.5, which is when the scramjet kicks in. The booster rocket is jettisoned, and then the X-51A goes hypersonic with the goal of Mach 6 or better, according to The Register.

The X-51A Waverider uses a scramjet engine, which uses no moving parts at all but is designed to achieve speeds anywhere from Mach 12 to Mach 24. Mach 24 is more than18,000 miles per hour.

It is the second of four test flights for the $246.5 million Waverider program, begun in December 2003. It is being done to demonstrate technology the Air Force hopes can eventually be used for more efficient transport of payloads into orbit.

SuperMoon viewed from space station

Super Moon Photographed March 19, 2011

SEE 2012 Supermoon info!  - "I've been planning this shot for a long time," says Paco Bellido of Cordoba, Spain. "Using Google Earth, I calculated the best place to set up my camera; then I followed my GPS to the spot. I waited for the Super Moon to rise and--voilá!--there it was behind Espejo's Castle," on SpaceWeather. The super full Moon of March 19th was the biggest and closest full Moon of the past 18 years. It might also be the most photographed full Moon--ever. 

Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov Conducted First Human Spacewalk in March 1965

Forty-six years ago, (March 18, 1965), Alexei Leonov became the first man to walk in space. This Soviet-era film shows practically the entire event, using footage from two cameras, as pointed to by Robert Zimmerman at Behind the Black.

Gas Giant Planetery Rings Discussed at SETI

Saturn's rings are one of the most spectacular objects in the solar system. Analysis of their origin, evolution, and eventual demise can provide insight into the formation of our solar system as well as planetary formation processes in general.

This talk by Rob French, Research Assistant at the SETI Institute, provides a brief overview of the ring systems of the giant planets, the basic principles of photometry, and how we have applied photometry to Saturn's F ring. The F ring shows a dramatic change in brightness from the Voyager era to the Cassini era. Scientists attribute this change to perturbations by the nearby moon Prometheus.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A ride through space around Saturn

5.6k Saturn Cassini Photographic Animation from stephen v2 on Vimeo.

Solar Probe + Mission Planning Underway

Solar Probe Plus is a planned robotic spacecraft to probe the outer corona of the sun. The mission design is to come within 8.5 solar radii (0.04 astronomical units or 5.9 million kilometers or 3.67 million miles) to the surface of the sun with advancved scientific instruments. On May 1, 2008 Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory announced to design and build the spacecraft, on a schedule to launch in July 2018.

The primary scientific mission of Solar Probe Plus is to determine: 1] the structure and dynamics of the magnetic fields at the sources of solar wind; 2] trace the flow of energy that heats the corona and accelerates the solar wind; 3] determine what mechanisms accelerate and transport energetic particles; 4] explore dusty plasma near the sun and its influence on solar wind and energetic particle formation. It will be the first mission to a star in an unprecedented effort to unlock the Sun's biggest mysteries, with the primary mission beginning in late December 2024.

Space Weather Forecasts Improving

Happy Sun-Earth Day 2011! Live webcast 2PM today.

Iran launched Kavoshgar 4 rocket with monkey doll to space in new biocapsule

Iran claimed that it have successfully tested launch of Kavoshgar 4 rocket which was to send a a monkey doll to the space on Tuesday, March 15, 2011 from its soil, according to the official IRNA news agency Thursday, citing the president's office. The rocket was unveiled by President Ahmadinejaf last February, 2011 in which he discussed the nation's growing space ambitions.

IRNA said the space agency aimed to test the performance of the launch pad, the engine and the electronic systems, according to The Voice of America.

Methane Rain on the Saturnian Moon Titan

As spring continues to unfold at Saturn, April showers on the planet's largest moon, Titan, have brought methane rain to its equatorial deserts, as revealed in images captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. This is the first time scientists have obtained current evidence of rain soaking Titan's surface at low latitudes.

Extensive rain from large cloud systems, spotted by Cassini's cameras in late 2010, has apparently darkened the surface of the moon. The best explanation is these areas remained wet after methane rainstorms. The observations released today in the journal Science, combined with earlier results in Geophysical Research Letters last month, show the weather systems of Titan's thick atmosphere and the changes wrought on its surface are affected by the changing seasons, notes NASA JPL.

Near the beginning of the movie/animation made from images taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft above, a particularly large cloud can be seen directly over and east of Titan's huge sea, Kraken Mare. If full, Kraken Mare, at 400,000 square kilometers (154,000 square miles), would be almost five times the size of North America's Lake Superior.

Over the past several years, Cassini has consistently observed clouds at Titan's mid-southern latitudes. More recent images also show clouds close to the moon's equator (see PIA12810). These observations provide evidence of a seasonal shift of Titan's weather systems to low latitudes following the Saturnian system's August 2009 equinox. (During equinox, the sun lies directly over the equator.)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Super Moon Tidal Effect on Earth?

Earthquake forcaster Jim Berkland warns of a 'high risk' seismic window and potential for a massive quake poised to strike somewhere in North America in between the dates of March 19th and 26th, 2011. Is it pseudo-science or real science? NASA says, "no worries." Comments.

Europe: The year of the Launchers

Ariane 5, the European space industry's workhorse, continues to successfully carry payloads into orbit. Two new launchers will soon complement Ariane 5, offering a full range of competitive services to Europe. 2011 will be the year of the launchers.

Kennedy Space Center Employees Assemble for Historic Photograph in Honor of Shuttle

Employees at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., took a few moments to assemble for a historic aerial photo Friday outside Kennedy's Vehicle Assembly Building. Thousands of workers stood side-by-side to form an outline of a space shuttle. The event was organized in honor of the Space Shuttle Program's 30-year legacy.

On This Week @ NASA - March 19, 2011

The Expedition 25 land safely, NASA engineers celebrate Messenger's orbit around the inner planet Mercury, review of NASA's New Website Honoring Women, Meetup at the Tweetup with a former space station resident, Do the Logo-Motion, Meet Robonaut 2, and marking the anniversaries of Gemini 3 and STS-76 are the activities at the American space agency this past week.

Next Soyuz Launch Re-Set for April 5

Russia space launch officials said Friday it had solved the problem that caused it to delay the launch of three cosmonauts and astronauts to the International Space Station and would proceed with the mission on Saturday, April 5, 2011.

The Soyuz launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is of huge importance to Russia as it comes ahead of the 50th anniversary of the first human space flight by Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 2011, reports RIA Novosti, Xinhua and AFP.

"The preliminary date for the launch is April 5, around 4 a.m. Moscow time and a reserve date is April 7," a source at the Baikonur Space Center said.

The Golden Era of Planetary Exploration

Thursday, March 17, 2011

MESSENGER Makes Orbit at Mercury

NASA MESSENGER Spacecraft to Become 1st Spacecraft to Orbit Mercury Tonight

After more than a dozen laps through the inner solar system, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft will move into orbit around Mercury on March 17, 2011. The durable spacecraft — carrying seven science instruments and fortified against the blistering environs near the sun — will be the first to orbit the innermost planet. At 8:45 p.m. EDT, MESSENGER — having pointed its largest thruster very close to the direction of travel — will fire that thruster for nearly 14 minutes, with other thrusters firing for an additional minute, slowing the spacecraft by 862 meters per second (1,929 mph).

The orbit insertion will place the spacecraft into a 12 hour orbit about Mercury with a 200 kilometer (124 mile) minimum altitude. At the time of orbit insertion, MESSENGER will be 46.14 million kilometers (28.67 million miles) from the sun and 155.06 million kilometers (96.35 million miles) from Earth.

MESSENGER has been on a 6.6 year mission to become the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. The spacecraft followed a path through the inner solar system, including one flyby of Earth, two flybys of Venus, and three flybys of Mercury. This impressive journey is returning the first new spacecraft data from Mercury since the Mariner 10 mission over 30 years ago.

Station Crew Unpacks Robonaut-2 (R-2)

The ISS crew and Robonaut punk Mission Control.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Messenger Flies to Mercury for Orbit

After a trip that's covered nearly five billion miles, NASA's Messenger probe is finally ready to start its mission. It's arrived at the planet Mercury, beginning a years' study to shed light on the sunniest planet. The magnetic field of Mercury will attract a lot of scientific interest.

ISS Crew Given Heroes' Welcome to Earth

Expedition 26 Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka are honored in post-landing festivities in Kazakhstan before making their return to Star City, Russia. Included is a post-landing interview with Expedition 26 Commander Scott Kelly.

The Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter at Work

The Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) works by propagating a single laser pulse through a Diffractive Optical Element that splits it into five beams. These beams then strike and are backscattered from the lunar surface. From the return pulse, the LOLA electronics determine the time of flight which, accounting for the speed of light, provides a precise measurement of the range from the spacecraft to the lunar surface. These range measurements, combined with accurate tracking of the spacecraft's location, are used to build a map revealing the contours of the lunar landscape.

LRO's 50 km orbit enables images of the north pole to be acquired every ~2 hours. This video is comprised of over 3,500 WAC images taken over a year (2/16/10 to 2/16/11).

Earthquake prediction science coming out of the Dark Ages in the 21st century? Maybe.

Our human ability to predict an earthquake is about as long as it takes to scream the word "earthquake!" to electronic media or in the seconds to hit the switch of the emergency alert siren song prior to a ceiling dropping rattle.

The recent 9.0 magnitude earthquake rapture in Japan highlights the need for geologists and space scientists to begin to collaborate on new methods to predict seismic events and their relationships, if any, among the Earth's upper atmospheric ionosphere, solar sun spot flares, the moon on tidal water movements and their impact on the Earth's tectonic plates. If humanity is to modify the dangers associated with the cataclysmic earthquake events, we must identify the precursor signals.

Governments around the globe have invested billions of dollars in ground-based seismic systems associated with the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to measure earthquakes that move up and down and from side-to-side, sometimes with deadly force, and too frequently followed by tsunamis and volcanoes. The technology systems can provide people a little over a minute advanced warning for those hundreds of miles from the epicenter of a quake. The closer to the epicenter the less time there is for human warning.

Prior to space-based weather satellites, humanity had little to no warning of major weather events. Meteorology and the science of weather prediction have vastly improved in the last fifty years of the Space Age, as best evidenced with a click of a computer to see weather predictions anywhere on Earth, several days in advance. Earthquake prediction, on the other hand, remains in the Dark Ages of human capability changing too little over the past 250-years of scientific study.

There are growing bodies of pseudoscience and mainstream science seeking to address earthquake prediction and forecasting. The challenges faced by the two approaches are intellectually  challenging. Heralding the next great earthquake is an unknown thus far in the 21st century.

Largely rejected by mainstream scientists, pseudo-scientists are building elaborate hypothetical models and theories that relate to the sun, the moon and atmospheric conditions to create mathematical scenarios on which to seek to predict earthquake times and locations. Known as astrotometry, a New Age techno-shaman seeks to quantify movement of the sun, moon and other planets as some sort of energy flux-transfer resulting in earth tectonic plate movements. It appears to be a blend of astrology with traditional astronomy and space weather.

On the other hand, there is a body of peer-reviewed science providing evidence of abrupt disturbances of the Earth's ionosphere may be one precursor to earthquake events. There are international academic research papers statistically linking solar flares with the high altitude atmospheric disturbances but they are far short of complete understanding. For example, following one hundred years of research of the Aurora Borealis, humanity lacks full understanding of these reoccurring natural phenomena.

To begin to address the shortfall of earthquake and volcanic forecasting science, British and Russian scientists signed an agreement in February to collaborate on the building and launching in 2015 two orbiting satellites called the Twin-Sat Project. The two planned satellites aim to investigate precursors to earthquake tremors and volcanic eruptions through the effects of the upper atmosphere correlated with ground-based observations.

The Twin-Sat Project satellites will be looking for detectable electromagnetic signals resulting from stress build up inside the Earth, slight changes in the Earth's magnetism that could be signs that earthquake tremors are significantly imminent. In the days leading up to the January 2010 Haiti 7.0 magnitude earthquake, magnetic signals were observed in the upper ionosphere above the region.

This kind of new and unique research may begin to provide an epiphany to our understanding of the interactions of the Earth's upper atmosphere to the subsurface movements of earthquakes. The linkage theory between the ionosphere and magnetic interactions is very immature and requires substantial scientific efforts be cast over the decades ahead if humanity is to have some depth of scientific understanding. An associated event can also be an erupting, lightening-spewing volcano ash plume also suggesting magnetic forces at work. Knowledge is very limited on this particular phenomenon as well.

The question confronting the science community is whether an accurate, reliable forecast of large seismic quakes is a realistic goal in the 21st century. Recent observations of earthquake and volcanic activity have shown that events tend to be localized in space, primarily on Earth's tectonic plate boundaries, and appear to be clustered in time more than would be expected for a random process. Nonetheless, the challenge of identification of earthquake event variables and associated precursors will be a monumental challenge, at least in the short-term.

The development of reliable earthquake precursors is a laudable goal of modern science. There are so many possible variables relating to Earth's internal stresses, magnetism, and their relationships to solar activity and lunar tidal forces: how each may contribute to earthquakes is an unknown. The road ahead in this scientific inquiry will be hard. The joint-effort between the British and Russians is a start worthy of greater international cooperation to advance earthquake prediction past the Dark Ages.

In his 1759 Candide novel, French philosopher Voltaire noted, the idea that science cannot predict everything is not new; it dates back to the 1755 Great Lisbon earthquake, which shattered contemporary European belief in a benign, predictable Universe in the Age of Reason. As the first earthquake studied scientifically for its effects over a large area, the Lisbon quake ushered forth-modern seismology and earthquake engineering.

Over two-hundred and fifty years later, humanity confronts the 2011 Great Japanese earthquake, which shattered modern atomic energy to meltdown and now threatens a renowned national economic tsunami. We face again the same premise: global science cannot predict everything, even one of the most destructive and deadliest earthquakes in the 21st century Age of Information.

Another 7 to 9--magnitude Richter scale earthquake is unequivocally certain; these natural high magnitude events happen around the globe on a two-week average, too frequently killing thousands. Yet, it is very uncertain humanity will outwit the next or the next thereafter with meaningful prediction.

As humanity, we must be determined to seek a larger view and more meaningful focus to understand this too common oddity of nature. We must seek to use the array of new scientific tools of post modernity if we are to avoid history continually repeating itself, with the same catastrophic results, over-and-over. A reliable 24-to-72 hour earthquake forecast could save thousands of lives and billions in damages giving greater significance to several areas of science.

Soyuz TMA-01M Lands in Kazakhstan

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft landed in Kazakhstan today, bringing NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and two Russian cosmonauts safely back to Earth after a months-long stay at the International Space Station, reports Denise Chow for MSNBC. "The capsule is on earth," an announcer at Russian Mission Control in Korolyov outside Moscow said to huge applause.

The Soyuz TMA-21 "Gargarin" spacecraft and the Space Shuttle Endeavour are expected to dock with the International Space Station next month. Three humans remain aboard the ISS with the Soyuz TMA-01M landing today.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

85 Years Ago Robert Goddard Launches World's First Liquid-fueled Rocket

Robert Hutchings Goddard (October 5, 1882 – August 10, 1945, an American professor, physicist and inventor, cretaed and built the world's first liquid-fueled rocket which he successfully launched on March 16, 1926 - 85 years ago today.

MESSENGER set for planet Mercury

On March 17th, 2011, NASA's MESSENGER probe will become the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.This animation depicts some of the science operations that will be completed during a typical single orbit in the first week of scientific mapping.

At different parts of the orbit, different instruments control spacecraft pointing. Blue frames on the planet denote imaging with either MESSENGER's wide-angle or narrow-angle camera. The green line denotes an observation of Mercury's exosphere with MESSENGER's Ultraviolet and Visible Spectrometer. The red circles denote topographic profiling with the Mercury Laser Altimeter. The magenta scans denote remote sensing of surface elemental composition by MESSENGER's X-Ray Spectrometer and Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer.

Soyuz TMA-01M to Land Wednesday; Soyuz TMA-21 "Gargain" Launch Delayed

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly – the station's Expedition 26 mission commander – and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka are due to undock their Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft from the space station late tomorrow night and land on the steppes of Kazakhstan in Central Asia early Wednesday, March 16, 2011. The Soyuz TMA-01M is the first Russian digital systems operational spacecraft.

Meanwhile, the Soyuz TMA-21 "Gargain" launch is be delayed by at least two days due to a radio glitch within the capsule. It had been previous slated to boost to space on March 20, 2011. The exact new date and time have yet to be publicly announced. The delay will leave the International Space Station with a downsized crew of three for at least a few days.

Space Debris to be Cleared by Lasers?

Space fantasy films are on their way to becoming reality as scientists suggest firing giant lasers into space to destroy threats to spaceships and satellites. Around 600,000 bits of space junk are cluttering Earth's orbital highways, putting communication systems and rockets at risk. The scientists claim only million-dollar lasers can change the trajectory of the junk and make it drop to earth.

On-Orbit Satellite Service Agreement Announced Between MDA & Intelsat

MDA will service satellites on-orbit using its newly announced Space Infrastructure Servicing (SIS) vehicle which might be ready for use in the 2015 timeframe. Intelsat is MDA's anchor tenant. More from SpaceNews and MDA.

Monday, March 14, 2011

GeoEye Shows Japan 'Before and After'

The GeoEye satellite is providing 'before and after' images from various sites in Japan. The level of destruction is breathtaking. Click the link, and then drag the images on the right to the left atop of the image first appearing.

The largest mobilization of the Japanese military is underway to provide civil emergency response to the tragic 9.1 magnitude earthquake, subsequent tremor aftershocks, tsunamis, atomic plant meltdowns at two, if not three reactors, and, lastly, volcanic eruptions. It is a surreal situation for the Japanese people.

An interesting tidbit of trivia here, Mt. Shimoe-dake is the volcano that Sean Connery (James Bond 007) secreted into during the film You Only Live Twice from back in 1967. Shinmoedake is a very large and powerful volcano located on the southern Japanese Island of Kyushu, about 950 miles south of the epicenter of Friday’s earthquake. The volcano is thought to have formed between 7,000 and 25,000 years ago, and has erupted in the past during the years; 1716, 1717, 1771, 1822, 1959, 1991, 2008, and 2009. The last major eruption of the mountain before January was 52 years ago.

Future Cultural Bridges Through SciFi

Dr. Larisa Mikhaylova, Lomonosov Moscow State University, discusses images from science fiction literature and films which have addressed human interaction in space (created by Frederick Pohl, Ivan Yefremov, Arthur C. Clarke, in Star Trek, Avatar, etc.)at the weekly SETI colloquium.

Mikhaylova discussed the results of recent internet contests of SF about space in Russia and the 'Back to the Future' contest conducted by NASA. Ethical aspects of space exploration are manifold, and there is hope that looking at human conflicts from an extraterrestrial angle still may help to solve pressing problems today and create a livable future.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Earthquate Forecasting Science Challenging

Science and research have still been unable to produce technology that can predict earthquakes with at least 90 per cent accuracy, said Yuri Urlichich, head of the Russian Institute of Space Device Engineering. ­This is why, Urlichich added, so many research institutes worldwide have been dedicated to the issue.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Happy Pluto is a Planet Day!

Pluto Protestors Take to Seattle Streets

A couple dozen children, their parents, MSNBC science journalist Alan Boyle and others marched in the streets of Seattle, Washington today, demanding that the farthest known sphere from our Sun — which formerly met most criteria to be considered a planet — be reinstated as a member of our solar system. As part of the protest action the students of 826 Seattle wrote persuasive letters to the International Astronomical Union, arguing that Pluto should be reinstated as a planet.

Planet Pluto Day March 13th

March 13 marks anniversary of the official announcement of the discovery of Pluto and has become a totemic date for all those who wish to see the IAU decision to reclassify Pluto overturned; lawmakers in New Mexico (home to the Lowell Observatory, the observatory that first spotted Pluto) and Illinois (birthplace of Clyde Thombough, Pluto's discoverer) have both declared March 13 as Pluto Day. Many remain in protest today resulting from the 2006 decision.

Satellite Remote Sensing of the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Damage

Satellite images of the north-east coast of Japan before (left) and after the earthquake and tsunami. Water is black or dark blue and the thin green line in the 'after' image indicates the shoreline. Photograph: Nasa

The magnitude 8.8 earthquake that jolted northeast Japan was caused by a tectonic upheaval that created offshore faults stretching for hundreds of kilometers from Iwate Prefecture to Ibaraki, The Japan Times and the London Evening Standard reported seismologists saying Saturday.

Vesta Encounter Set for July 2011

This video shows the scientists' best guess to date of what the surface of the protoplanet Vesta might look like. The Dawn spacecraft will arrive for the Vesta encounter in July 2011. The Hubble Space Telescope has contributed to knowledge of the giant asteroid.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Delta IV Launch of NROL-27 Spy Satellite

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV launched the National Reconnaissance Office military satellite number L-27 successfully from Cape Canaveral, Florida's launch complex 37 at 5:47 PM, March 11, 2011.

Supermoon or Solar Flare Earthquake Nexus?

STS-134 Endeavour Now at Launch Pad

Space shuttle Endeavour began its final scheduled 3.4-mile journey to Launch Pad 39A in darkness -- leaving the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 7:56 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on March 10, 2011.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Soyuz TMA-21 Gagarin Prepared for Flight

The Soyuz TMA-21 Gagarin capsule is prepared for spaceflight launch March 30, 2011 from the spaceport Baikonur. The Gagarin will carry three astronauts and cosmonauts to the International Space Station for crew exchange of three of the six currently aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

What is the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer?

In order to detect dark matter and answer other fundamental questions about our universe, engineers and scientists from all over the world have come together to build the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) which will be installed on the International Space Station (ISS) in April 2011 following a boost to orbit by STS-134 Endeavour on April 19, 2011 at 7:48 PM. The AMS-02 is an international scientific instrument. More from NASA Johnson.

Endeavour Readied for Last Launch April 19

The NASA animation showing the flight of the STS-134 mission of Space Shuttle Endeavour. This mission will be the last flight of the space shuttle Endeavour, now set for launch from the Kennedy Space Center on or after 19 April 2011. It will be the 25th flight of Endeavour to orbit.

STS-134 (ISS assembly flight ULF6) will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) to the International Space Station. The AMS-02 unit is designed to search for antimatter and the origin and structure of dark matter.

Have your song considered for a NASA Wake-Up Song for the STS-134 astronauts!

Discovery Lands, Now on to a Museum

Space shuttle Discovery touched down for the last time Wednesday, wrapping up another chapter of U.S. space travel. NASA's oldest and most-flown spacecraft ends its career with 148 million miles and 365 days spent in space.

STS-133 Commander Steve Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe, and mission specialists Mike Barratt, Al Drew, Steve Bowen and Nicole Stott take questions from the media following their safe return to NASA's Kennedy Space Center earlier in the day aboard space shuttle Discovery.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Cassini Finds Enceladus is a Powerhouse

The south polar region of a frigid Saturn moon churns out far more heat than Yellowstone National Park, Earth's most famous geologic hotspot, a new study released by NASA JPL finds.

Using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, researchers have determined that the far southern reaches of the Saturn moon Enceladus produce about 15.8 gigawatts of heat-generated power. That's about 2.6 times the power output of all the hot springs in and around Yellowstone — and 10 times more than scientists had predicted, researchers have told

According to Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer (CIRS), the activity is most prominent along an 80-mile stretch of four parallel, mile-wide furrows. Evidence gathered in October 2008 showed that huge plumes of water vapour emitted from these same furrows contained methane, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and silicate dust -- elements that indicate the presence of a habitable saltwater ocean beneath the moon's frozen shell, in contact with the satellite's mineral-rich terrain, notes Wired UK.

STS-133 Discovery Crew "Meets" Media

STS-133 crew members chat with ABC News, CBS News and The Associated Press on Flight Day 13 as they prepare for their scheduled landing aboard space shuttle Discovery at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Wednesday, if weather permits.

Live Music Wake-Up Call for Discovery

A live performance from Big Head Todd & The Monsters was the first time a shuttle crew has been awakened live from Mission Control, Houston, Texas.

Alien Life Claim Sparks Controversy

Monday, March 07, 2011

Discovery Making Final Earth Orbits

Mission Highlights: Space shuttle Discovery and the STS-133 crew launched Feb. 24, 2011, on a mission to deliver the Permanent Multipurpose Module, Robonaut 2 and the Express Logistics Carrier 4 to the International Space Station. During Discovery's stay at the station, the STS-133 crew conducted two spacewalks to perform maintenance and install new components.

William Shatner Gives Wake-Up to STS-133

William Shatner, the actor who played Captain James T. Kirk on the original Star Trek television series, provided a special message to the crew of space shuttle Discovery during the 3:23 a.m. EST wakeup call on Mon., Mar. 7.

As Alexander Courage's "Star Trek" theme song played underneath, Shatner replaced the original television introduction with, "Space, the final frontier. These have been the voyages of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Her 30 year mission: To seek out new science. To build new outposts. To bring nations together on the final frontier. To boldly go, and do, what no spacecraft has done before."

The "Theme from Star Trek" received the second most votes in a public contest from a Top 40 list for NASA's Song Contest. Shatner recorded the custom introduction for Discovery's final voyage -- its 39th flight and 13th to the International Space Station.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Russia-UK Propose Earthquake Prediction Satellites System to Launch in 2015

Modern space exploration is more about commerce than national prestige, and getting funding means drawing a convincing picture of future profits to the investor, said Alan Smith from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory in London.

Alan Smith heads the British part of the Russia-UK joint TwinSat Project that is working on the construction of next-generation satellites to observe and monitor seismic activity on Earth, such as earthquakes and volcanoes. The satellites are proposed for launch in 2015. [British Embassy in Moscow and the International Science & Technology Center].

Zent talks habitability of Martian permafrost

Dr. Aaron Zent, Co-Investigator of the Phoenix Mars Mission, NASA Ames, discusses recent work in the Antarctic finding viable microbes in the dry permafrost of University Valley, relying on only interfacial water to effect exchange with the environment and how that analog impacts the view of ice on Mars, in the above SETI lecture.

Models of the possible history of the martian high latitudes in particular, show that conditions favoring even thicker film development are likely to occur on the timescale of obliquity variations. The discovery of nearly pure ice at the Phoenix landing site is a possible indicator of in situ ice segregation, a physical process that depends on the same films of unfrozen water. We will review all of these recent results, and assess their potential implications for the habitability of the martian regolith.