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Monday, October 31, 2011

China Puts Shenzhou-8 in Earth Orbit

China's  Tuesday, Nov. 1st 6 AM (6 PM EDT Monday)  launch of Shenzhou-8 will attempt to rendezvous and dock with the Tiangong-1 space station module. This is China's first attempt at a docking and rendezvous between its spacecraft. More about the historic mission from China Today, Xinhua, the BBC,  Bill Harwood at CNET, Associated Press and UPI.

Satellite Spotter Sees Chinese Space Lab

While watching a fly-over of Italy's SkyMed-2 satellite, a second brighter satellite - China's Tiangong 1 - flew across the view of amateur astronomer Kevin Fetter's low light security camera. The Chinese module was launched on September 29, 2011.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wishing you a spooktacular Halloween!

Taikonaut calls future space station a 'villa'

"If we liken the return capsule on the spacecraft Shenzhou-5 that took me into space to a one-room apartment, the future space station China is trying to build might be compared to a spacious villa," Chinese taikonaut Yang Liwei told Chinese media outlet Xinhua Sunday.

Yang, China's first taikonaut who was heaved into space in 2003, told Xinhua that the future space station is about 60 tonnes in weight and is able to accommodate six Chinese taikonauts to work and live inside.

"The space station is much more spacious than the Tiangong-1 space lab module and will provide taikonauts with better working environment and platform," said Yang, who is the deputy director of the office of China's manned space program.

China launched to space Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace-1, in late September for the country's first-ever space rendezvous and docking with spacecraft Shenzhou-8, expected to blast off in early November at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern Gobi desert.

The upcoming docking is considered a key step for China's three-phase manned space program, which aims to build a permanent manned space station around 2020.

"China welcomes astronauts or cosmonauts from other countries to participate in our space station and other manned space programs," the Chinese first taikonaut said.

Barcelona Moon Observes Chinese Sat Launch

On October 7th, 2011 members of the Barcelona Moon Team had the chance to witness the launch of a Long March 3B from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in the province of Sichuan in China.

The rocket was carrying a very special payload, the W3C satellite owned by Eutelsat, which become the first European owned satellite to be launched on a Chinese rocket. W3C is based on the Thales Alenia Space Spacebus 4000 platform and it's the fifth satellite built by Thales Alenia Space France launched by China.

The launch was impressive with the LM3B roaring to the skies with a slow and smooth movement in the begining but disapearing from the naked eye view in a few seconds. A beautiful show.

A tour of lunar terrain features

Using elevation and image data returned by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), this animation takes the viewer on a virtual tour of the Moon. The tour visits a number of interesting sites chosen to illustrate a wide variety of lunar terrain features.

Some are on the near side and are familiar to both professional and amateur observers on Earth, while others can only be seen clearly from space. Some are large and old (Orientale, South Pole-Aitken), others are smaller and younger (Tycho, Aristarchus, Shackleton). Constantly shadowed areas near the poles are hard to photograph but easier to measure with altimetry, while several of the Apollo landing sites, all relatively near the equator, have been imaged at resolutions as high as 25 centimeters (10 inches) per pixel.

The shape of the terrain in this animation is based primarily on data from LRO's laser altimeter (LOLA), supplemented by stereo image data from its wide angle camera (LROC WAC) and from Japan's Kaguya mission. The global surface color is from Clementine.

Russian ISS Soyuz-Progress 45 in Earth Orbit

Riding atop its Soyuz booster rocket, the Russian ISS Progress 45 cargo ship launched successfully from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:11 a.m. EDT (4:11 p.m. Baikonur time) on Oct. 30, 2011, bound for the International Space Station. It was the first launch of the Soyuz booster that is used for Progress and manned Soyuz launches since a third stage failure of another Soyuz rocket resulted in the loss of the ISS Progress 44 resupply craft on Aug. 24. Progress 45, carrying almost three tons of food, fuel and supplies for the residents of the station, is scheduled to link up automatically to the Pirs Docking Compartment on the complex on Nov. 2, 2011.

Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin said that the unmanned Progress M-13M blasted off as scheduled at 2:11 p.m. Moscow time (1011 GMT) Sunday from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. He said the ship successfully reached a designated orbit and is set to dock at the station Wednesday.

A Progress launch failure in August that was blamed on a manufacturing flaw cast doubts about future missions to the station, because the upper stage of the booster rocket carrying the cargo ship to orbit is similar to that used to launch astronauts.  More from SpaceflightNow and NPR.

Northern Light Flights to Start in Sweden

Spaceport Sweden has collaborated with the ICEHOTEL (video1 and video2), Kiruna Airport and Scandinavian Airlink to launch an exclusive space tourism experience that will allow clients to get an even closer look at the magical and mythical northern lights (aurora borealis).

”Space tourism is no longer a dream but a new industry being developed here and now. At Spaceport Sweden our mission is to provide space related experiences for all; on the ground, in the air and in time to space and we are very excited to now launch our first product. The Northern Light Flights offers our customers an exclusive experience to get closer to and view this natural space phenomenon of the northern lights from a front row seat”, says Karin Nilsdotter, CEO at Spaceport Sweden (video).

The Northern Light Flight experience starts at ICEHOTEL with a short presentation about the northern lights and a transfer to Spaceport Sweden where an airplane with seats for nine passengers each with a window will take clients above the clouds. The flight will last approximately 1 hour.

The premier flight takes place on the 15th January 2012 and there will then be three more flights on the 5th, 12th and 19th of February. The flights can be booked via as of 19th of October 2011. There are three types of package deals to choose between: a standard, deluxe and a charter package deal that is bookable all days between 1st of January and 15th of March 2012.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Kessler syndrome: Space Junk Threatens Future Space Exploration

Hari Sreenivasan sat down with recently with Donald Kessler, former NASA scientist and expert on space junk, to talk about the who's and what's of orbital debris: how much is out there, what does it look like, what happens when these objects collide and what danger do they pose for future space travel and for us on Earth. The Kessler syndrome is now known within space literature.

Space Station Accelerates Leaving Floating Humans Behind in Zero Gravity

As the International Space Station is boosted into a higher orbit, Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum and Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa and Sergei Volkov float freely to demonstrate the acceleration of the orbiting complex.

The ISS raised its orbit Wednesday, October 26, 2011. The reboost puts the station in a good configuration for the proper altitude for the upcoming dockings of the ISS Progress 45 supply ship and the Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft carrying three new Expedition 29 crew members next month.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Congressman Wolf Writes Young Rocketeer of Support for Commercial Crew Launches

Brittany Barnes of Norton, Va. communicated with Congressman Frank Wolf on the importance of human spaceflight after visit to Wallops Island launch pads.
Congressman Frank Wolf has signaled his support for the utilization of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia for commercial cargo and human crew flights to a Southwestern Virginia young woman on her way to becoming an aerospace engineer.

The dedicated rocketeer Brittany Barnes received the unusual personal response to a letter she had sent earlier this month to Northern Virginia Congressman Wolf in support of human orbital space flight from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Va.

"I, too, share you enthusiasm for the facility [Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport] and strongly support its use for NASA commercial cargo and crew launches," the powerful House Appropriations Committee subcommittee chair having jurisdiction over NASA's federal budget, shared with the Virginia youth by letter dated October 17, 2011.

Barnes, a 17-year old Virginia senior attending Wise County's Central High School, has been building high powered model rockets going into her second year. An accomplished National Association of Rocketry certified rocket builder, she visited the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, NASA Wallops Flight Facility and the NASA Langley Research Center during the past summer for a week.
Barnes can frequently be found at the Lonesome Pine Regional Spaceport (Airport) lofting high powered rockets skyward with her STAR team friends.
"I am honored and pleased with the Congressman's response and wanted to share it," Barnes said. "It is my hope all the members of the Virginia Congressional delegation will be as forthcoming and provide support to Congressman Wolf for commercial space crew launches from Virginia's Eastern Shore."

Critical Launch of the Soyuz U Sunday

At Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site the preparations continue for the launch of ISS Progress 45 cargo vehicle to the International Space Station, Sunday, October 30, 2011 at 6:11 AM EDT will determine if the ISS crew will remain with a human crew.

The Soyuz-U launch vehicle was rolled out from the integration building to the launch pad Friday. Soyuz-U launch vehicle with the ISS Progress 45 transport vehicle is installed on the launch pad and being readied for flight. The outcome of an unmanned Russian supply spaceship launch to the International Space Station  will determine whether subsequent Soyuz boosters in November (TMA-22) and December (TMA-03M)  loft human crews to orbit and on to ISS docking.

The Fabric of the Cosmos Premiers Nov. 2

Dr. Brian Greene's "Fabric of the Cosmos" premieres Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011 at 9:00 PM ET/PT on PBS. All quantum mechanics will be there!

NPP Goes to Orbit from California

The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project, or NPP, is set to launch at 5:48 a.m. EDT today, on a mission to measure both global climate changes and key weather variables.

The NPP satellite has 5 instruments on board: VIIRS, CERES, CrIS, ATMS, and OMPS. Each one will deliver a specific set of data helping weather prediction and climate studies. This video is a quick overview of each instrument and its placement on the spacecraft done at the Ball Aerospace clean room by the NPP Systems Engineer Rob Baltrum.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Space Business at the Speed of Innovation

Top Stories on This Week At NASA include Lori Garver discussing "Business at the Speed og Innovation in New Mexico last week, three new flight directors at Mission Control in Houston. The latest on micro-gravity experiments aboard the ISS, Lifetime achievement awards for the Mars Rovers and the governors of Florida and Virginia tour NASA facilities.

Red Whittaker Talks Moon Lander

Astrobotic Technology team leader Red Whittaker discusses the moon lander structure that will launch from Earth in the months ahead. Astrobotic has contracted with SpaceX for a Falcon 9 booster launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on a lunar mission for as early as December 2013.

Faraway dwarf planet Eris is Pluto's twin

Astronomers have accurately measured the diameter of the faraway dwarf planet Eris for the first time by catching it as it passed in front of a faint star. This event was seen at the end of 2010 by telescopes in Chile, including the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory. The observations show that Eris is an almost perfect twin of Pluto in size. Eris seems to have a very reflective surface, suggesting that it is covered in ice, probably a frozen atmosphere, (Nature, Ars Technica, and Physics World). The dwarf planet Eris and its moon Dysmonia are depicted in this 30-second animation.

NASA's NPP Sateliite to Launch Friday, Oct. 28, 2011 from Vandenberg, California

The launch of the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. Liftoff from NASA's Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), Calif., is targeted during a nine-minute ten second launch window that opens at 2:48:01 a.m. PDT (5:48:01 a.m. EDT). The spacecraft's final circular polar orbit will be 512 miles (824 kilometers) at an inclination of 98 degrees.

NPP, a NASA Earth-observing satellite, represents a critical first step in building the next-generation of U.S. polar-orbiting climate and weather monitoring spacecraft. NPP is the bridge between NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS) satellites and the forthcoming series of Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) satellites. The mission will test key technologies and instruments for the JPSS missions.

The second of NASA's Educational Launch of Nanosatellite, or ELaNa, missions also will be launched on the Delta II. These auxiliary payloads are small satellites called CubeSats. Each is designed and created by university and college students. Five satellites will be deployed on ELaNa-2.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Phobos-Grunt scheduled to launch Nov. 7th for Mars Moon Phobos Soil Sample Return

The complex Phobos-Grunt (Phobos-Soil) sample return mission to the Martian moon Phobos is set to begin liftoff on or about November 7, 2011 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome (video)  in Kazakhstan atop a Zenit rocket. The highlight of the mission will be a sample return from the return of the tiny moon Phobos orbiting Mars.

If successful, this audacious Russian spaceprobe will retrieve about 200 grams of soil from the diminutive moon Phobos and accomplish the round trip in three years time by August 2014, returning to Earth for scientists to commence an analysis.

"The spacecraft will lift off from the Earth with 700 tonnes and go back to the Earth with 50 grams of useful soil. Can you imagine the difficulty of sending a human there," Vladimir Popovkin, head of the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), told the Russian the State Duma last week.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Shenzhou 8 spacecraft launch set November 1

The launch of the unmanned Chinese spaceship Shenzhou 8 is planned for November 1, 2011 designed to subsequently conduct the first Chinese docking in space with the space module Tiangong 1 launched September 29, 2011 and now on-orbit around the Earth.

Virginia Chamber of Commerce to provide spaceport political support for development

The Virginia Chamber of Commerce is organizing a Transportation subcommittee to advocate for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launch pads. It is a step in more complete recognition that the spaceport is a potentially multi-million dollar contributor to the state's economy and significant boost to sustaining longer-term interest in STEM-education in Virginia's public schools, colleges and universities.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has been engaged in space sector advocacy for a number of years where the organization sees the space sector as a key economic development driver. Florida's aerospace sector seeks billions of dollars of federal investment for space technologies and is now looking to the commercial sector to utilize some of the federal space infrastructure.

Space Florida views Virginia as an environmental threat with an expansion of human spaceflight to Virginia in the years ahead. The Wallops Island spaceport has commercial payload orbital capability. Florida is actively seeking to deprive Virginia of any federal investment to further human spaceflight from the Eastern Shore thereby maintaining its monopoly on human spaceflight.

Soyuz May Boost Americans Post-2016

Top NASA officials are quietly working to extend a contract with Moscow that would continue using Russian rockets to fly U.S. astronauts into space until 2016 and beyond — a move that underscores how much the U.S. now relies on its former Cold War adversary, writes Mark K. Matthews for the Orlando Sentinel.

Already, NASA is committed to pay Russia $1.5 billion during the next five years to transport its astronauts to and from the International Space Station, a necessary arrangement because the U.S. no longer flies a human-rated spacecraft since NASA retired the space shuttle last summer.

NASA has opted to build a large booster capable of several tons of payload capable of taking astronauts beyond the moon to an asteroid or Mars. Meanwhile, SpaceX is looking to boost commercial and government astronauts to space in 2014. Boeing is looking to utilize the CTS-100 capsule on an Atlas-V 402 by late-2016.

Soyuz Makes History in the French Guiana

Arianespace opened a new chapter in space history Friday, October 21, 2011 with a milestone double mission success that marked the Soyuz launcher's inaugural flight from French Guiana, and which placed Europe's first two Galileo navigation satellites into orbit. Lifting off from the ELS launch site in the Spaceport's northwestern sector, the Russian-built Soyuz performed a 3-hour 49-minute flight to inject its two Galileo In-Orbit Validation (IOV) spacecraft into a circular medium-Earth orbit. More from The Guardian.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Phobos-Grunt Launch Set for November 7

On November 7, 2011, Roscosmos (the Russian Federal Space Agency) will launch an unmanned mission to Mars and its larger moon Phobos. Onboard will be a Chinese microsatellite to orbit the red planet for a year, but the real star will be the Russian Phobos-Grunt lander, which will touch down onto the surface of Phobos, retrieve a soil sample and return it to Earth by 2014.

The Planetary Society is also contributing to the mission with a payload of live microorganisms to test the hypothesis that life can survive in space after being blasted off planets from meteor impacts.

Finally, after many delays, a cargo plane departed Moscow's Sheremetievo airport on the morning of Oct. 17, 2011, with the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft onboard, NPO Lavochkin announced. Probably indicating a severe pressure on the schedule, the company still did not officially announce the launch date of the mission, saying only that it was scheduled to lift off in the first half of November.

Space Transportation: An ATV Perspective

The Erasmus Centre of the ESA Directorate of Human Spaceflight picked one of ESA's success stories -- the mission of Jules Verne, the first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) that was docked to the International Space Station (ISS) for 6 months - to highlight the complex physical laws behind handy space applications and driving current and future human exploration undertakings.

VA Governor Bob McDonnell Visits Spaceport to Review Launch Campaign of the Taurus-2

Pictured here (L to R): Chief of Staff Martin Kent; Christyl Johnson, Deputy Director for Science and Technology, Goddard Space Flight Center; Bill Wrobel, Director, Wallops Flight Facility; Governor McDonnell; David Thompson, CEO, Orbital Sciences Corporation; Les Kovacs, Wallops Site Manager, Orbital Sciences Corporation
Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell visits the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport to gain insights as to the launch campaign for commercial cargo to be launched by an Orbital Sciences Corporation Taurus-2 booster early next year. The governor was provided information by Orbital Sciences CEO David Thompson.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Branson Dedicates Spaceport Terminal

Las Cruces, N.M., officially joined the list of the nation’s major space centers Monday when a newly completed terminal and hangar facility was turned over to British billionaire Richard Branson and his commercial space tourism venture, Virgin Galactic, report The Los Angeles Times.

NASA to Fly Virgin Galactic from New Mexico

NASA, the organization that pioneered space flight, is now hitching a ride from Richard Branson. Branson's private space flight company Virgin Galactic put the space agency on its client list this week.

WISE sees asteroids in infrared light

The asteroid-hunting portion of the mission, called NEOWISE, scanned for asteroids both in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter, and those near Earth. This video illustrates the benefits of observing asteroids in infrared light.

Soyuz Booster on Pad in French Guiana

Operations are well under way for the first Soyuz launch scheduled on 20 October 2011 from its new site in Europe's Space Port in French Guiana. Aboard the historical Russian rocket the first two operational satellites of the Galileo constellation. Last Friday, October 14, 2011, the launcher was transferred from its Integration building to its launch pad, where - contrary to Baikonur - a tower covers the last operations.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Soyuz gearing-up for Kourou launch Oct. 20

Building a new launch complex is never easy, even more so when it involves mixing technologies from different design cultures. But that is what the European Space Agency, the French Space Agency CNES and Arianespace have succeeded in doing with Soyuz in French Guiana. When the legendary Russian rocket lifts off for the first time from its pad at Sinamary near Kourou on 20 October - carrying two spacecraft for Europe's Galileo satellite navigation programme - it will mark the end of more than six years of intense work, of gigantic proportions.

A 3D presentation of the Galileo satellite navigation system, a joint development by the European Union and European Space Agency. This constellation of satellites will allow users to pinpoint their location anywhere on Earth -- their launches commencing on 20 October 2011.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Science on a Sphere: Moon Formation

NASA's "Science on a Sphere" outreach program produced this video to help educate the public as to the formation of the moon.

Soyuz Launch Campaign for Oct. 20 Continues at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana

The clock is ticking for the first Soyuz flight from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. The rocket, which will carry the first two satellites of Europe's Galileo navigation system into orbit, is being prepared for launch on Thursday 20 October 2011. The Russian-made Soyuz will be rolled out horizontally to the launch pad on Friday 14 October 2011 and raised into its vertical launch position.

Mars Rover Opportunity 3-Year Trek

During the three-year trek of NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity from Victoria crater to Endeavour crater, rover planners captured a horizon photograph at the end of each drive.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Oblique View of Vesta's South Polar Region

A new image from NASA's Dawn spacecraft shows a mountain three times as high as Mt. Everest, amidst the topography in the south polar region of the giant asteroid Vesta, (video explanation) in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Euro Planet.

The peak of Vesta's south pole mountain, seen in the center of the image, rises about 13 miles (22 kilometers) above the average height of the surrounding terrain. Another impressive structure is a large scarp, a cliff with a steep slope, on the right side of this image. The scarp bounds part of the south polar depression, and the Dawn team's scientists believe features around its base are probably the result of landslides. NASA will hold a press conference Wednesday, October 12, 2011.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Richard Garriott supports YouTube Space Lab

Space Adventures' sixth private spaceflight client and famed game developer, Richard Garriott, shows his support for the YouTube Space Lab project supported by Chinese PC builder Lenovo. More from AFP, BBC, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Then on Columbus Day: HSF Virginia?

Keith Cowing writing on NASA WATCH says today: "It is blatantly obvious that Florida's space community is hijacking the intent of an Environmental Impact Statement to inject local and national politics and complaints that have nothing to do with environmental impact. Do these Florida-based organizations issue press releases about these letters? No. Do they post them on their own websites? No. Why? Becuase they know that this is a sneaky, somewhat slimy way to do things."

The editorial comment comes in response to an OpEd published in The Richmond Times Dispatch earlier this morning about the efforts of Space Florida to drive to ground any effort in Virginia for human spaceflight. The Space Florida action is bringing support for human spaceflight from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

The Southwestern Virginia Technology Council, an influental group in Virginia space flight policy circles, is specifically calling upon members of the Old Dominion Congressional delegation to contact the Boeing Company executives. The tech council wants to gain a public commitment from Boeing to launch the commercial crew space capsule CTS-100 atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas-V 402 from Wallops Island within five years and thereby open the door for a new era in space technology for all of America. 

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Nobel Prize tied to cosmic acceleration, dark energy and dark matter in the Universe

Americans Saul Perlmutter, Adam Reiss, and Brian Schmitt have won the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics based upon their nearly 20-years of research on the expansion of the Universe.

Since 1929, scientists have known that the universe was expanding, because of the "Big Bang" nearly 14 billion years ago. Over the years since, astronomers have thought that the expansion of the universe was slowing because of gravity. Throughout most of the 20th century, the scientific community seemed to reconfirm the theory that the expansion of the universe was indeed slowing.

Beginning late in the 20th century, the three cited astrophysicists were skeptical and they spent years working with data collected from the Hubble Space Telescope about exploding stars to develop a new theory on dark energy and gravity to address how the expansion of the universe is actually accelerating, rather than decelerating. The physicists looking at extremely distant supernovae noticed something quite surprising: the supernovae were moving outward and accelerating.

The observation of cosmic acceleration has led to the theory that some mysterious, gravitationally repulsive dark energy must be behind the rising expansion of the cosmos - although we do not have the foggiest idea of what it is. Dark energy is one of the most pressing problems in astrophysics today [CNN] in that it permeates the cosmos at the rate of the accelerating expansion of the universe. A fabric of energy is expanding at an accelerating pace in every direction through space.

The only thing known or mathematically inferred is the existence of dark energy. The base inference is by how it influences the expansion of the universe. One explanation for dark energy is that it is a property of space. Albert Einstein was the first person to realize that "empty space is not nothing" - at the risk of a double negative expression. Space has amazing properties, many of which we are just beginning to understand after 50-years of human expansion only a mere 250,000 miles into it.

The first property that Einstein discovered is that it is possible for more space to come into existence. Then one version of Einstein's gravity theory, the version that contains a cosmological constant, makes a second prediction: "empty space" can possess its own energy.

Another explanation as to how space acquires or creates energy comes from quantum theory. In this theory, "empty space" is actually full of "virtual" particles that continually form and then disappear. Physicists have tried to calculate how much energy there is in empty space. No one has yet mathematically explained dark energy successfully. The mystery of how much energy there may be in empty space remains a mystery.

An alternative explanation for dark energy is that it is a new kind of dynamic energy field or fluid. It is thought to be something that fills all of space but whose effect on the expansion of the Universe is the opposite of matter. Scientists have no clue what this something is like or how or with what it interacts. Again, the dark energy mystery story continues.

Perhaps another alternative is that Einstein's theory of gravity is in error. If it were not correct, then a new theory of gravity is in need with no physics theory existing to replace it. If the theory of gravity is wrong, then humanity has lost the explanation of the motion of bodies in our known solar system. While there are alternative theories, none is compelling.

The efforts of the three 2011 Nobel Prize in physics winners are compelling to the European Space Agency. Euclid is in planning for 2019 with the purpose of launching a new space telescope to chart the 3-dimensional structure of the universe through the last 10 billion years, tracing expansion and the effects of dark energy on its evolution. Europeans are acting on American dark energy science.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Video Contest: Beyond Planet Earth

Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration, a new exhibition opening at the American Museum of Natural History on November 19, envisions a future when humans explore the next frontier—our solar system and, one day, the Milky Way galaxy. Can you imagine an elevator to the Moon, a lunar habitat, or colonies on Mars? Many scientists believe that one day these are possible.

This is your chance to share your original, out-of-this-world take on the future of space exploration—in three minutes or less. Where will we go? What will we discover? Submit your video by November 3, 2011 and we'll choose ONE winner.

Join the Beyond Planet Earth Video Contest group to submit your video and access a collection of space visualizations and video clips from the Museum's archives, available for use in your video:​groups/​beyondplanetearth

This Week @NASA: October 7, 2011

62nd International Astronautical Congress Highlights from Cape Town, South Africa

Highlights of the 62nd International Astronautical Congress held in Cape Town between 3-7 October 2011 are featured in the above video.

The year 2011 marks the anniversary of 50 years of human spaceflight. This celebratory panel featured astronauts representing several countries and spacecraft experiences and they engaged the audience in a question and answer session.

Orion/SLS Outlined by NASA's Gerstenmaier

In September, NASA announced the new Space Launch System (SLS) that will launch astronauts on deep space missions. The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle capsule that will fly on the SLS was announced in May, 2011. NASA Associate Administrator William H. Gerstenmaier's International Astronautical Congress presentation described the mission requirements and design features of Orion and SLS.

A Road Map for Space Astronomy

Space satellites have given astrophysicists a unique opportunity to explore the invisible part of the electromagnetic spectrum and drastically improve our knowledge of the universe. The increasing size, complexity and cost of large space observatories places a growing emphasis on large international collaboration.

What knocked Uranus over?

What knocked Uranus over?

Astronomers used over 500 images from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Voyager probe to determine that 15hr:57min:59sec calls it a day on the "blue planet". This animation of images shows Neptune in its full rotational glory (time-lapsed). Credit: E. Karkoschka/The University of Arizona/NASA

Moon Elevation Map Being Made

LOLA, the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, is an instrument for measuring the altitude of the Moon's terrain. As LRO orbits the Moon, LOLA bounces laser light off the lunar surface 28 times per second. An array of five sensors arranged in an X-shape detects the reflected light. The amount of time it takes the light to travel to the surface and back to the sensors tells the instrument how far away the surface is. Over time, LOLA builds up a complete elevation map of the Moon.

The above video animation illustrates how the X-shaped LOLA sensor footprint travels over the lunar surface. The LOLA data track is taken from LRO orbit number 1155, on September 27, 2009, as the spacecraft passed over Amundsen crater near the lunar south pole. It begins with a distant view showing the entire crater, then switches to a view near the surface that chases the laser pulses over the central peak and across the floor of this large crater. Through most of the movie, the laser pulses are shown racing across the surface at actual speed, but at one point, the pace is slowed so that the viewer can see the sensor pattern of each individual laser pulse. Music: "Lola" by Blend Crafters.

Chinese Plan Uncrewed Shenzhou-8 Space Docking to Tiangong-1 in November 2011

The Chinese space efforts will continue next month as the uncrewed Shenzhou-8 will be launched with a mission profile to test docking procedures with the Tiangong-1 space lab.  The Shenzhou-8 is at the  Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu province with the launch campaign underway.

Frank Morring, Jr., writing for Aviation Week, Shenzhou-9 will be launched in the first half of 2012, probably with a crew of two, and flown manually to docking. Shenzhou-10 will follow to orbit.

Morring makes note that the Chinese are planning a larger space station for low earth orbit and a possible human mission to the Moon sometime early in the next decade of 2020.

China Space presentation at the International Astronautical Congress held at Cape Town, South Africa October 6, 2011.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Former NASA Astronaut Jose Hernandez to Run for Congress in Northern California

Jose Moreno Hernandez, whose life story from the farm fields to outer space is well-chronicled, has decided to run for Congress from a newly drawn district that encompasses most of southern San Joaquin County in California.

The 49-year-old former NASA astronaut, a Democrat, filed papers this week forming a campaign committee. After weeks of hinting he would run for public office, the Hernandez for Congress Committee is official, writes Jennie Rodriguez-Moore for the Record.  The Mexican-American will most likely oppose Republican Rep. Jeff Denham first elected in 2010.

Orion Deep Spacecraft Taking Shape at NASA

Take a look at the progress being made as NASA builds America's deep space exploration spacecraft in this fast-paced music video.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

NASA Administrator Bolden Speaks at IAC

Satellite Communications in a Global Market

The 2011 IAC plenary session addressed how satellites are contributing to entry of developing and industrialising countries into the global market, benefiting human society in general.

NASA's William Gerstenmaier Talk @ SGC

William H. Gerstenmaier is the Associate Administrator for Space Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. In this position, Gerstenmaier directs NASA's human exploration of space. He also has programmatic oversight for the International Space Station, Space Shuttle, space communications and space launch vehicles. Gerstenmaier spoke to the Space Generation Congress in Cape Town, South Africa this week.

Why another Earth observing satellite?

NASA's NPP mission will continue collecting critical climate data to help scientist unravel the mysteries of climate change. This fun interactive mission overview video featuring TV meteorologists Topper Shutt (WUSA9), Veronica Johnson (NBC4) and Justin Berk (ABC2). Learn about the two key messages of the NPP mission!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Soyuz to Loft ESA Galileo Satellite

On 20 October 2011, for the first time ever a Soyuz launcher will lift off from Europe's Space port in French Guiana. On top of the legendary russian rocket the first two satellites of the Galileo Constellation for the In Orbit Validation (IOV) phase of the European Navigation system. Final preparations are in full swing for a historical space launch from the Centre Spatial Guyanais.

What's Up for October? Moons and Meteors

How many moons can you see this month? Jupiter's moons, our moon, and a few others are on display. October 8 is international observe the moon night!

ESA Solar Orbiter Set to Begin in 2017

The Euopean Space Agency's Solar Orbiter mission is conceived to perform a close-up study of our Sun and inner heliosphere - the uncharted innermost regions of our Solar System - to better understand, and even predict, the unruly behavior of the star on which our lives depend. At its closest point, the spacecraft will be closer to the Sun than any previous spacecraft, braving the fierce heat and will carry its telescopes to almost one-quarter of Earth's distance from our nearest star. It will provide unique data and imagery of the Sun.

Solar Orbiter will be the first satellite to provide close-up views of the Sun's polar regions, which are very difficult to see from Earth, providing images from latitudes higher than 25 degrees. It will be able to almost match the Sun's rotation around its axis for several days, and so it will be able for the first time to see solar storms building up over an extended period from the same viewpoint. It will also deliver data of the side of the Sun not visible from Earth.

Following launch, currently foreseen for 2017, Solar Orbiter will begin its journey to the Sun. This will require a cruise phase lasting approximately 3 years. During this time, the instruments will be commissioned, and some in-situ data will be acquired. During the cruise, Solar Orbiter will use gravity assists from Venus and the Earth. These swing-bys will put Solar Orbiter into a 168-day-long orbit around the Sun from which the spacecraft will begin its scientific mission.

Along this orbit, the spacecraft will reach closest approach to the Sun every five months, at around (60 solar radii, or 0.28 AU) and when traveling at its fastest, Solar Orbiter will remain positioned over approximately the same region of the solar atmosphere as the Sun rotates on its axis, allowing unprecedented observations.

During the course of the mission, additional Venus gravity assist maneuvers will be used to increase the inclination of Solar Orbiter's orbit, helping the instruments see the polar regions of the Sun clearly, for the first time. Solar Orbiter will eventually view the poles from an angle higher than 30 degrees, compared to 7 degrees at best from Earth.

Von Karman Wings Award Goes to Orbital Science Corporation's David Thompson

David W. Thompson, co-founder, Chairman, and CEO of Orbital Sciences Corporation received the Von Karman Wings Award from the Aerospace Historical Society and the Graduate Aerospace Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, September 29, 2011.

What's new @CERN ?

What's new @CERN ? a new video programme launched on , every first Monday of the Month. For the first one, the themes are the results of the LHC experiments about Higgs boson, standard model and supersymmetry, and also neutrinos of OPERA experiment faster than the speed of light.

Tevatron's Last Smash Has Come

The United States has shut down its biggest particle physics experiment. The Tevatron first roared to life in 1983 and spent the next 28 years smashing particles together at just under the speed of light. In a webcast from Fermilab on Friday, the 4-mile ring saw its last collision.

Top-Level Space Agency Heads Gather

The gathering of space agency heads gathered recently at Cape Town, South Africa for the 2011 IAC: Heads of Agency Plenary of the 62nd International Astronautical Congress.  Over 2,000 senior executives of the world's space agencies along with space lawyers, academics, researchers, industry and commerce executives, students and young professionals are in attendance from around the globe.

Russia's Federal Space Agency head Vladimir Popovkin confirmed that the next manned flight will leave for the ISS on November 14, 2011 after the freezing of launches after cargo ship's crash to Earth in August, 2011.

New global mosaic of Titan revealed

An international team led by the University of Nantes has pieced together images gathered over six years by the Cassini mission to create a global mosaic of the surface of Titan. The global maps and animations of Saturn's largest moon were presented by Stéphane Le Mouélic at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2011 in Nantes, France on Tuesday 4th October.

The team has compiled all the infrared images acquired by the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) during Cassini's first seventy flybys of Titan. Fitting the pieces of the puzzle together is a painstaking task. The images must be corrected for differences in the illuminating conditions and each image is filtered on a pixel-by-pixel basis to screen out atmospheric distortions.

Titan is veiled by a thick, opaque atmosphere composed mainly of nitrogen. It has clouds of methane and ethane and there is increasing evidence for methane rain. Only a few specific infrared wavelengths can penetrate the cloud and haze to provide a window down to Titan's surface. An exotic frozen world with many Earth-like geological features has progressively emerged from darkness.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

CCTV Plays 'America the Beautiful' as Millions of Chinese Watched the Tiangong-1 Launch

China's state TV accompanied coverage of the historic launch of the country's first space laboratory from the Jiuquan spaceport in the Gobi Desert with a patriotic US song, America the Beautiful. The song is regarded by many as an unofficial national anthem for the US, and features the line: "America! America! God shed his grace on thee."

It was not clear why the song had been chosen, or whether producers at China Central Television even knew the significance and origins of the tune, reported The Guardian. Some Chinese people say that CCTV must have made a mistake with the music as millions across China watched the take-off of Tiangong-1 on Thursday.

Viewers of CCTV were treated to a minute-long animation set to the American song. The video features only the music from the song and not the lyrics, reported the BBC

Miles O'Brien talked to Ira Flatow on NPR's Science Friday about the Chinese space launch.

Falcon-9 favored over Atlas-V to gain first human rating certification by Blog readers

Readers of the Spaceports blog were asked to pick from among the Falcon-9, Atlas-V, or Delta-IV booster rockets as to which would be certified for human space flight first.

Overwhelmingly, readers picked the SpaceX Falcon-9 by 65% over the Atlas-V 402 with 25% and the Delta-IV with 8% to be the first human-rated commercial space launch booster. The ATK Liberty is also seeking to make an entry into the race for commercial human-rated space booster too.

SpaceX and Elon Musk have been consistent favorites among blog readers for years. In a previous poll, most expect SpaceX to best Orbital Sciences Corporation in placing the first commercial cargo on the International Space Station in early 2012.

Bigelow Aerospace Cuts Machinists Payroll; Focus of Workforce on CTS-100 Capsule

Bigelow Aerospace, a leader in on-orbit private space habitat development, has cut nearly 40 machinists from its Las Vegas workforce while retaining about fifty employees to continue development of the CTS-100 astronaut capsule in partnership with Boeing, reports SpaceNews.

Boeing and Bigelow seek to launch the CTS-100 atop either at Atlas-V 402 or SpaceX Falcon 9 from either Cape Canaveral, Florida or Wallops Island, Virginia. The prospect of an orbital commercial human-rated space launch system has slowed to 2015, or as late as 2016, estimate  most experts. The delay has slowed the Bigelow business model.

Rocket City Space Pioneers Project the Future

A little moon rover faces huge challenges traversing the harsh lunar surface in pursuit of the Google Lunar X PRIZE, suggests the Huntsville, Alabama-based Rocket City Space Pioneers.