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Friday, August 31, 2012

Giant steps are what you take ...

More Human Than Human Remix [2012]
Memorial service held for Neil Armstrong in Ohio Aug. 31, 2012; A National Memorial Service for "The First Man" is set for Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in Washington, D.C.

Mars Methane - Could It Mean Life?

Part of Curiosity's Martian mission is to determine if methane is still being created on Mars. It might be tectonic activity deep underground, but it's also possible that something living beneath the martian surface could be creating the gas.

Curiosity sends home special messages before heading onto the Martian plain towards her first target.

This Week @NASA: August 31, 2012

History will remember Neil Armstrong, foremost, as the first human to step foot on another heavenly body. But his NASA family and many admirers worldwide will forever appreciate him for more than just that one, albeit world-changing, accomplishment.

NASA Wants Another Spacewalk to Fix ISS

Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide were unable to complete a maintenance task during his first spacewalk outside the International Space Station.

Williams and Hoshide used a long-duration tie-down tether to secure the replacement distributor to the space station for a future spacewalk. Earlier, Williams was able to successfully connect one of two power cables in preparation for the future arrival of a Russian laboratory module. But the third objective, replacing a camera on the Canadarm2 robotic arm, was not completed. 

 Thursday’s spacewalk was supposed to last 6½ hours but stretched past eight hours. It ended up in NASA’s top 10 list for longest spacewalks — at the No. 3 spot. 

NASA would like to take another crack at securing the box as soon as possible — perhaps next week — because of the mid-September departure of half the six-member crew, including the second U.S. astronaut, who ran the robot arm Thursday from inside the station. And the longer this situation goes on, the more vulnerable the space station is to additional failures.

Flags at Half-Staff for Neil Armstrong Today

Cosmic calendar honors Neil Armstrong with "Blue Moon."

Neil Armstrong's funeral is today in Ohio. The President of the United States has placed all American flags at half-staff today in his honor and the cosmic calendar has provided a "Blue Moon!"

Though known for making a "giant leap for mankind," when Neil Armstrong stepped on the surface of the moon, he later said that he "didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small." Science correspondent Miles O'Brien remembers the life of one of the most inspiring astronauts in U.S. history.

A rare 1970 interview of Neil Armstrong by the BBC. In this interview, Armstrong predicted future human-tended lunar bases "in our lifetime."

Watch Out For The Blue Moon

The second full Moon of August--a "Blue Moon"--is just around the corner. It will probably look just like any other full Moon but, on rare occasions, the Moon really does turn blue.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dawn's Farewell to Giant Asteroid Vesta

The NASA Dawn spacecraft is on track to become the first spacecraft to study two distant solar system destinations - the giant asteroid Vesta and, in 2015, the dwarf planet Ceres. Dawn is set for departure, according to NASA.

NASA Launches Radiation Belt Storm Probes

NASA's Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP), the first twin-spacecraft mission designed to explore our planet's radiation belts, launched aboard an Atlas-V into the predawn skies at 4:05 a.m. EDT Thursday, August 30, 2012 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

'Blue moon' for Neil Armstrong Day Wink!

There’s a rare ‘blue moon’ on Friday, a fitting wink to Neil Armstrong by the cosmic calendar. Armstrong’s family has suggested paying tribute to him by looking at the moon and giving the astronaut a wink (9:58 am EDT, or 6:58 am PDT acorss the United States).
But as thousands look to the Blue Moon Friday to give the late astronaut a wink, the NewSpace pioneers of this decade, like Elvis of 1968 sings,  will seek to turn "My Blue Moon Gold Again!" And, this time to stay.

Russian-Kazakh-Ukrainian Moon Rocket?

The Vulkan rocket design.
Russia has proposed a joint project with Kazakhstan and Ukraine to build a heavy rocket capable of launching manned missions to the Moon within three years according to space rocket corporation Energia based in Korolyov near Moscow.
"Energia is proposing that a carrier rocket, Commonwealth, be created in cooperation with Ukraine and Kazakhstan, with the use of the Energia-Buran know-how," Energia President and General Designer Vitaly Lopota recently told Interfax.
"Concerning the carrying capacity, it's difficult to speculate, but it could be up to 70 tonnes, which is sufficient to circle the Moon," Lopota said.
"If ambitions and political will are there, this project could be accomplished in a few years without falling behind our American colleagues," Lopota added.
The Energia rocket is a Soviet-era carrier of super-heavy class, developed by Energia Corporation in the 1980s. Two Energia launches were carried out: on May 15 1987 with a mass-volume mockup model, and on November 15 1988 with the Buran reusable shuttle.
The Energia-Buran project was suspended in the 1990s. The RD-170 rocket engine, developed for the Energia project, has been upgraded and is used in Zenit Russian-Ukrainian carrier rockets as RD-171, and in American Atlas 5 launch systems as RD-180.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 Talks of First Music from Mars

"Reach for the Stars," is about's passion for science, technology and space exploration. This video is a behind the scenes look at the creation of the song.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 "Reach for the Stars" from MARS!

With students and NASA space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin looking on, musical artist posts a tweet soon after his song "Reach for the Stars" is beamed back from the Curiosity Mars rover and broadcast to a live audience at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Image credit: NASA/JPL
For the first time in history, a recorded song has been beamed back to Earth from another planet. Students, special guests and news media gathered at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., today to hear "Reach for the Stars" by musician after it was transmitted from the surface of Mars by the Curiosity rover.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden addressed the crowd in a video message encouraging students to study science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). "Mars has always fascinated us, and the things Curiosity tells us about it will help us learn about whether or not life was possible there," Bolden said. "And what future human explorers can expect. has provided the first song on our playlist of Mars exploration."

Leland Melvin gestures to
In opening remarks, NASA Associate Administrator for Education and space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin said, "I can think of no greater way to honor NASA pioneer Neil Armstrong's life and legacy than to inspire today's students to follow his path. That first footprint that Neil placed on the lunar surface left an indelible mark in history. Perhaps one of our students here today or watching on NASA Television will be the first to set foot on the surface of Mars and continue humanity's quest to explore." with Leland Melvin
Musician and entrepreneur, part of the hip-hop group The Black-Eyed Peas, shared his thoughts about "Reach for the Stars" becoming the first interplanetary song and an anthem for NASA education. The entertainer is a well-known advocate of science and technology education. He said, "Today is about inspiring young people to lead a life without limits placed on their potential and to pursue collaboration between humanity and technology through STEAM education. I know my purpose is to inspire young people, because they will keep inspiring me back."

After completing a journey of more than 700 million miles from Earth to Mars and back, the opening orchestral strains of "Reach for the Stars" filled the auditorium. The event added to continuing worldwide interest in Curiosity's mission.

Melvin shares laugh with
The song seemed to be a hit with the kids. Flight director and resident “Mohawk Guy” Bobak Ferdowsi, stars grown out of his distinctive red-and-blue-striped hairstyle, hit the button to start playback. Chief engineer Rob Manning grooved to the beat along with teammates on a giant display video screen. The track will appear on’s upcoming album #willpower, out October 15, 2012.

Sunita Williams Discusses Life in Space

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 32 Flight Engineer Sunita Williams of NASA fielded questions from students at the Wickliffe Progressive Community School in Upper Arlington, Ohio, during an in-flight educational event on Aug. 28. Williams will be joined by Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide for a 6 ½ hour spacewalk on Aug. 30 to replace a power switching unit on the station and to rig cables for the future arrival of a Russian laboratory module.

July 20, 1969: Back to the Future!

Neil Armstrong & Apollo-11 Remembered: Filmmaker Rod Pyle arranges NASA video and images to recreate the 1969 experience of watching human beings step onto another world for the first time and the mission that brought them there.

NASA to Approve 1-Year Human ISS Mission

NASA will shortly announce plans to double the mission duration of some astronaut expeditions to the International Space Station beginning in 2015, NBC space consultant James Oberg writes.

The potential news of year long duration flights by Russian cosmonauts and NASA astronauts first surfaced with a report about about a potential tourist spaceflight by British superstar singer Sarah Brightman on August 22, 2012.  
News sources have also suggested that former NASA Astronaut Office Chief Peggy Whitson, now back in active duty in the astronaut corps, will be an American astronaut signing-up for the one year International Space Station assignment, according to the Russian Interfax news agency. The Russians have yet to name a cosmonaut to the one-year ISS expedition orbital flight.

Scientists Provide Status of Curiosity on Mars

More from Red Orbit, BBC, and NASA JPL.

Lunar Space Elevator Proposed by LiftPort

US firm announced an ambitious project to build a lunar space elevator that could transport both robots and humans using already existing technology, in less than a decade. Fundraising efforts are already underway, notes Alex Knapp at Forbes.
Firm's founder and former NASA researcher Michael Laine stated that LiftPort Group is capable of building a lunar space elevator within this decade. A lunar space elevator is a cable running from the surface of the moon into space.
It is similar to a concept known as the earth space elevator, which is LiftPort's ultimate goal. The idea of the space elevator is designed to permit transport along the cable from a planetary surface directly into space without the use of large rockets. The cable would be held up due to the competing forces of gravity and the upward centrifugal force.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Armstrong private funeral Friday in Ohio

A private funeral service is planned in Cincinnati, Ohio on Friday for astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon who planted the Stars and Stripes on the Moon.
President Obama has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff for Neil Armstrong's funeral, now set for Friday. Obama ordered the action as "a mark of respect for the memory of Neil Armstrong."
Neil Armstrong with President Obama
The president's order applies to US flags on the top of the White House, all public buildings, military posts, naval stations and US naval ships at sea anywhere in the world, as well as at American embassies and consulates.
Ohio Senator Rob Portman is expected to speak at Friday's private service. A spokesman for Armstrong's family says a public, national memorial service at another time is a possibility.
The Republican convention in Tampa is also planning a tribute to Armstrong during this week's proceedings. Purdue University is holding a memorial to honor Armstrong.
The lunar pioneer was decorated by 17 countries and received a slew of US honors, but was never comfortable with his fame and shied away from the limelight. More on services from Alan Boyle at MSNBC.

Clamour for Armstrong state funeral

Neil Armstrong statute at Purdue's Neil Armstrong School of Engineering
President Barack Obama is being called upon by an online petition and members of Congress to hold a state funeral for the late Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, who died Saturday.
State funerals, held at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. are steeped in tradition and usually reserved for former presidents, the last being Gerald R. Ford in 2006.
The last non-president to be afforded a state funeral was General Douglas MacArthur, a Second World War and Korean War hero in 1964, five years prior to Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon.
A state funeral would include pall-bears from the five branches of the US armed forces, a series of artillery salutes, a jet formation fly-past, and a number of bands and choirs. The flag-draped coffin is taken to the Capitol building by a horse-drawn gun carriage, where soldiers place it the rotunda for public viewing, and culminating in a service at the Washington National Cathedral.
Armstrong was a very modest and private person, and the funeral is expected to be held Thursday or Friday.

Nonetheless, Armstrong was the tip of the spear for some 400,000 Apollo workers (public and private). We need to remember what our nation did to create such a moment in the history of human civilization. To let this pass as just another weekend news item, frankly, would be a sad commentary unto itself. Our nation needs a day of remembrance so we may tell the children!

Sunday, August 26, 2012


With the passing of the "First Man" Neil Armstrong, the Apollo 11 landing site artifacts remain at risk as other nations and corporations send rover vehicles, perhaps taikonauts or commercial astronauts to the the moon in the future. Apollo 11 landing site advocates seek international preservation through the declaration of the site as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  
 The remains of the Apollo 11 mission include the landing stage compete with designated landing marker, a faded, now-white American flag, four urine containers, airsickness bags, a Hasselblad camera, lunar overshoes, several scientific instruments and hundreds of footprints. The site would be a top priority of lunar historic site preservationists.
NASA has previously issued guidelines for those considering future lunar landings to preserve the historic Apollo landing sites, along with others. The guidelines carry the minimal force of international law or treaty, however. Each of the Apollo landing sites have each been imaged by LRO.

One day in the 21st century, humans will again traverse this site as a museum in a shining city of the two-world system. Young and old alike will seek to enjoy the artifacts of mankind's treks to the moon between 1969 and 1972 - when humans first left the Earth for New Worlds.

Neil Armstrong's Legacy Honored

News media and officials commemorate the life of the first man to set foot on the moon.

Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 Commander and first person to walk on the moon, guides us through the history of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the half-century since its establishment in 1958. Produced by NASA TV, 2008. The music clips used provides a artistic timeline through the past fifty-five years.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Nation Mourns Loss of Hero Armstrong

- The enhanced video of Apollo 11 Astronaut Neil Armstrong's first human steps on the surface of the Moon, July 20, 1969 with hundreds of millions of his fellow Earthlings watching.

- The Science Show provides this eulogy of American and international hero Neil A. Armstrong. More notables "tweet" about Armstrong as reported by The New York Times.

- The Apollo 11 mission to land the first humans on the Moon was a national undertaking supported by youthful President John F. Kennedy. Within the decade, as Kennedy had declared, Neil Armstrong left the American footprints and the American flag on the Sea of Tranquility with crewmate Buzz Aldrin.
In the 1998 HBO Mini-Series "From the Earth to the Moon," Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are depicted in making the first lunar landing on July 20, 1969 from what actually happened. Obviously, Commander Armstrong was "one cool customer" under extreme pressure.

Safe Journey Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

NBC VIDEO: FAMILY STATEMENT OF NEIL ARMSTRONG: “We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.

Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.

Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.

He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.

As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.

While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.

For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”
The Summer 2012 loss of icons like science fiction giant Ray Bradbury in June, Sally Ride in July, and now Neil Armstrong in August makes for a unsettling summer. Each, nonetheless, leave behind a strong legacy and good lives bringing joy to many or serving as role models to others.

Atlas V RBSP Rescheduled for August 30

With the unfavorable weather forecast as a result of Tropical Storm Isaac approaching Florida, the leadership team for launching NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission has decided to roll the Atlas V rocket off the launch pad and back to the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. This will ensure the launch vehicle and twin RBSP spacecraft are secured and protected from inclement weather. Pending approval from the U.S. Air Force’s Eastern Range, RBSP’s launch is rescheduled for Thursday, Aug. 30 at 4:05 a.m. EDT, according to NASA.


"The Science Fiction of Ray Bradbury Attack" - shamisen player and God of Shamisen bandleader Kevin Kmetz is a huge Ray Bradbury fan.

Friday, August 24, 2012

SpaceX Clear for Commercial Operations

NASA has formally cleared Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) to begin making cargo runs to the international space station following the company’s completion of its $400 million Commercial Orbital Transportation Services contract agreement with the agency, reports SpaceNews.
In the second of two demonstrations under that contract, SpaceX delivered cargo to the orbital outpost in May, 2012 using its Dragon capsule launched atop its Falcon 9 booster rocket.
SpaceX will fly 12 logistics missions to the station under its $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract awarded in 2008. The first of those flights is scheduled for no earlier than Oct. 5, 2012.
NASA is still waiting for its second cargo services provider, Orbital Sciences Corp., to wrap up its own demonstration program. Orbital holds a $1.9 billion contract to make eight deliveries to the space station with its Cygnus space freighter and Antares launcher.
Orbital has two flight demonstrations scheduled: the Antares maiden flight, in which the rocket will carry a ballast payload; and a mission with the full Antares/Cygnus stack. These demonstrations are scheduled for October and December, 2012 the company says.

Dr. Michio Kaku : What Next on Planet Mars?

Where should NASA go to look for intelligent life on Mars? To get to the truth, journalists say follow the money. Astronomers say follow the water. Dr. Michio Kaku says "if you were a Martian on Mars three billion years ago when Mars was probably a lush environment with liquid water oceans—and you realized that the water was escaping to the icecaps, escaping into outer space or going into the permafrost," then you would "probably go either into outer space to leave Mars or drill into the permafrost or go into the polar icecaps. So I think that's what NASA is going to do next."

Curiosity Rover Report for Aug. 24, 2012

Flex, Zap, Roll: NASA's Curiosity Mars rover performs a series of firsts this week -- flexing its arm, laser-zapping a rock and rolling on its wheels. See the rover's landing site, named for author Ray Bradbury on the day that would have been his 92nd birthday.

This Week @NASA: August 24, 2012

Radiation Belt Storm Probes Delay 24 Hours

NASA Launch Manager Tim Dunn discusses the Aug. 24, 2012 scrubbed launch attempt of the Atlas V rocket with the twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station by at least 24 hours. The unmanned Atlas 5 rocket carrying the two satellites is now slated to blast off at 4:07 a.m. EDT (0807 GMT) on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. NBC News/ provide details.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sen. Mark Warner Discusses Public Student Science Experiments Going to Space Station

Sen. Mark Warner listens to spaceflight plans in Big Stone Gap, Va. (MECC)
U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner, (D-Va.), discusses the recent International Space Station downlink with over 4,000 Southwestern Virginia public school district students that he urged NASA to do earlier this year with the regional school districts.

Southwestern Virginia students will be placing space science experiments  on the Earth-orbiting national laboratory in 2012 and 2013, Warner learned during a quick briefing by project financial counsel Jack Kennedy at Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap, Va. on Wednesday, August 22, 2012.
Warner, a member of growing influence on the Senate Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Science & Space, listened as he was advised of the follow-on projects with Appalachian Mountain students to place science experiments on the International Space Station in the fall of 2012 Mission-2 and the spring of 2013 Mission-3.
Russell and Wise school districts are planning science experiments and artistic mission patches with the National Center for Earth and Space Science and Nanoracks, LLC under a commercial Space Act Agreement with NASA. Russell County Public Schools will be the first school in Virginia to place an experiment on the orbiting outpost this year.  

Kennedy forged an MOU agreement in late 2011 between the Southwestern Virginia Technology Council, who are assisting in funding, and Nanoracks, LLC, the commercial carrier provider, to pursue the student-driven space science experiments.
Warner has been an advocate for the Virginia spaceport on the Commerce Committee and a friend of the emerging commercial spaceflight industry in his first four years on Capitol Hill. The soon-to-be 'Senior Senator from Virginia' will wield more influence over science and space authorization in the next Congress.

MASER beams and MORE!

LA Space Salon presents: Rick Tumlinson

If settlement and expansion into space is the goal of human spaceflight efforts, what is the optimal role of the government - if any?
Co-founder of the Space Frontier Foundation and space activist, Rick Tumlinson discusses how the space frontier will be opened, with the support of, or in spite of our governments for 25-minutes.
If we clear away the myths of history, we will see that past frontiers such as the Americas were not opened by the governments of Europe. It simply didn't happen that way. Rather, different groups, companies, and individuals operating under various agreements, contracts, sanctions, and with different kinds of support, did the vast majority of the work, including most of the exploration. There were no government settlers or fleets of ships, except those patrolling the seas and protecting their citizens and their goods and the wealth they were shipping home.

As we open the Frontier of Space, we must create a new model, based on the realities of the 21st century and of space itself. This time we will be taking these new lands from no one, and rather than attacking its ecosystem in the name of industry, our industry will bring with it the seeds of life.

What will this new model look like? And what must we begin to do right now to make this happen as quickly as possible, as safely as possible, in a way that produces the most wealth, science, and value for all involved, in both the government, and the private sector?

Atlas/Dream Chaser: ISS Crew Transport

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Space Systems is currently working with the NASA Commercial Crew and Cargo Office on the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) Program to develop and configure the system for ISS servicing. In parallel, SNC has signed a memorandum of understanding with United Launch Alliance (ULA) and is evaluating man-rating the Atlas V launch vehicle and configuring it for use with Dream Chaser® to provide a launch configuration based on the exceptional heritage of the Atlas family of launch vehicles. BREAKING news from Sierra Nevada and NASA.

Voyager "still doing awesome science"

Hank tells viewers three things we probably didn't know (or don't recall) about the Voyager 1 spacecraft now set to enter the interstellar void.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Curiosity Mars Rover Makes First Test Drive

The Mars Rover Curiosity passed a test drive and moved forward roughly 20 feet. BBC science journalist Jonathan Amos, Bill Harwood at CNET, Amy Hubbard at The Los Angeles Times  and Kenneth Chang at The New York Times and NASA provide the details.

Russians to Resume Commercial Soyuz Flights

Sarah Brightman
Media reports abound in Britain, Russia and the United States that British super-star singer Sarah Brightman may be the next paying passenger to ride a Russian rocket to the International Space Station.
Brightman received medical approval to begin cosmonaut training at Star City, outside of Moscow, possibly to become only the eighth "space tourist" to pay for a ride, according to reports.
Russia TodayThe Telegraph, The Independent, and NBC are spreading the word that the Russians are considering resumption of short-stay Soyuz spaceflights to the International Space Station in 2015.
Interfax cited an unnamed source in the Russian space industry saying plans to send a two-person crew to the station for about a year in 2015, instead of the usual six months, would free up a seat for a paying passenger on that trip or others around that time.

Russian space agency Roskosmos said on Wednesday it supported the idea of gradually extending expeditions to the station to a year, but said that no decision had yet been taken.

Brightman & Hot Gossip sing "I lost my heart to a starship trooper" in 1979.

2299 Alien Planets Orbiting One Sun?

What? 2299 Alien Planets Orbiting One Sun? That's what the Harvard mind of Alex Parker devised when he put together an animation of most of the Kepler Space Telescope's planet candidates orbiting one star. Distance from each planets actual host star and relative speed is preserved. 
The above video is best watched FULL SCREEN and ever better with headphones. More from Scientific American, Discovery News, io9, and Popular Machanics.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

CCiCAP and Boeing's CST-100 Discussed

Commercial Crew Program Partner Manager for Boeing Gennaro Caliendo discusses the Integrated Systems Review meetings held in Houston this week and the CST-100.

The meetings are a part of NASA's CCiCAP, or Commercial Crew Integrated Capability, milestones that have been set for its commercial partners. The meetings this week have been scheduled to review Boeing and the other commercial partners progress in their designs and to ensure that they meet system requirements.

Caliendo talks about Boeing's CST-100, which is a capsule design that will fly into low-Earth orbit and rendezvous with the International Space Station and land back on Earth using parachutes. It is designed to land on the ground using air bags, which is different than most capsules that are designed to land in water.

Mars moon Phobos Captured in 3-D

Phobos in 3-D via ESA's Mars Express
Some 135 years after its discovery, Mars’ largest moon Phobos is seen in fantastic detail – and in 3D – in an image taken by ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft as it passed just 100 km by.

The view above is much different to the faint object that astronomer Asaph Hall would have just been able to make out as he observed the Red Planet through the United States Naval Observatory’s 66 cm telescope in 1877. Through this telescope he discovered Mars’ smaller, outermost moon Deimos on 12 August and the larger, innermost moon Phobos on 18 August 1877.

Orbiting Mars at just 6000 km from the planet’s surface, Phobos is closer to its parent planet than any other known moon in our Solar System. The moon’s proximity means that it hurtles around Mars faster than the planet rotates: for an observer on the surface of Mars, Phobos would appear to rise and set twice a day. The moon’s orbit is decreasing and in some 50 million years time Phobos will likely break up to form a debris ring around Mars, before colliding with the planet’s surface. 

Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin has urged President Obama to mount a mission to Phobos in the future.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Asteroid Research with NEEMO

Neil deGrasse Tyson and NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) explore what it takes to stop an asteroid from colliding with earth. NASA Astronaut Mike  Gernhardt, a four-time space astronaut, discusses the training underway for a huma asteroid mission.

Commercial Crew "Will Make the Earth and Heavens a Smaller Place" Says Mango

The National Space Club Florida discusses the future commercial crew program with Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll and NASA's Ed Mango.

VOYAGER: 9,795,920,000 miles away!

How do you talk to a probe 9,795,920,000 mi away? Voyager 2's science team explains what their robotic hero's been up to since it launched on August 20th, 1977 - thirty-five years ago. The two Voyager probes are proving the US-investment worthy. More from NASA.

Curiosity's First Stop: Ancient Flood Plains

Lead scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory John Grotzinger discusses Curiosity's first destination; exposed bedrock in the alluvial plane near the rover's landing site. Scientists hope to confirm if water flowed there on an ancient Mars.

Next NASA Mars Landing Mission in 2016

Launching in March 2016, InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) mission will study the Red Planet's deep interior with hopes to better understand the evolution of terrestrial planets, NASA announced today.

Mission team members for InSight, the new Mars lander mission selected by NASA to launch in 2016, explain how the spacecraft will advance our knowledge of Mars' history and rocky planet evolution.   More from BBC science journalist Jonathan Amos and Bruce Betts at the Planetary Society.

Cosmonauts Conduct Spacewalk at ISS

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 32 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko conducted a spacewalk Aug. 20, 2012 to attach micrometeoroid debris panels to the Zvezda Service Module, relocate a cargo boom from the Pirs Docking Compartment to the Zarya module, deploy a small engineering test satellite and collect science samples. It was the 163rd spacewalk in support of station assembly and maintenance, the ninth in Padalka's career and the fifth for Malenchenko. Science journalist Bill Harwood provides detials to C-Net.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Curiosity Zaps First Mars Rock #PewPew

The Mars Rover Curiosity rover has zapped its first Martian rock Sunday (August 19, 2012), aiming its laser for the sake of science for 30 pulses at a nearby rock over a 10-second window and burning a small hole, [NASA JPL] and then, tweeting "PewPew" via social media, notes Keith Cowing.

Since landing in Gale Crater on Mars two weeks ago, the six-wheel rover has been checking out its instruments including the laser. During its two-year mission, Curiosity was expected to point the laser at various rocks as it drives toward Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain rising from the crater floor. More from the MailOnline.

Sea Launch AG's Zenit-3SL Boosts Intelsat 21

Sea Launch AG has successfully launched the Intelsat 21 satellite from the Equator on the ocean-based Launch Platform Odyssey, completing its 12th mission for Intelsat and marking the completion of Sea Launch's second of three planned missions in 2012.

The Zenit-3SL rocket carrying the spacecraft lifted off at 23:55 Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) on Saturday, August 18, 2012 from the launch platform, positioned at 154 degrees West longitude in the Pacific Ocean. Thirty minutes later, the Block DM-SL upper stage inserted the satellite, weighing 5,982 kilograms and built by Boeing Satellite Systems Inc., into geosynchronous transfer orbit, on its way to a final orbital position at 302 degrees East longitude. Intelsat acquired the spacecraft's first signals from orbit shortly after spacecraft separation. All systems performed nominally throughout the launch mission.

Corporations replace states in space?

The pros and cons of opening space travel to commercial companies are addressed by Dr. Scott Pace, director for Space Policy Institute at George Washington University hosted by RT.  The price point, says Pace, is a critical element to the success of drawing the high end traveler.

Business and Government Advancing Space Mining Concepts for 21st Century?

With American and European astronaut-trainees under the sea, in the desert and in caves simulating asteroid mining, the exploration and subsequent mineral explotation of off-Earth minerals does not appear too far into the future - perhaps the 2020's.

Technology journalist Michael Belfiore, writing for Popular Mechanics this week, offers readersinteresting articles about mining the asteroids: The Tech We'll Need to Mine Asteroids and How to Mine an Asteroid and One Asteroid to Go, Please.

Robotic spacecraft have visited and sampled comets and aseteroids in the 21st century while multiple robotic spacecraft continue to map and study the Moon and Mars for potential human exploration in the 2020's and perhaps colonization in the 2030's. Many potential uses of off-Earth materials have been under consideration for years.  The Obama Administration made an asteroid a  human destination goal by 2025.

Space mining will play a significant role.

New Scientist journalist Paul Marks asked the Minor Planet Center at Harvard University director Tim Spahr if he thinks the private sector-funded Planetary Resources operation will succeed in mining the sky. Planetary Resources has been joined by significant Russian investors too, reports The Moscow Times and RT.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Highlights this week: Curiosity on Mars!

'Curiosity remains busy on Mars by checking out her instruments and getting ready for her first test drive.'- Bobak Fredowsi (August 17, 2012).

Curiosity is safe on Mars and ready to roll. In this video from Science@NASA, project scientist John Grotzinger discusses where the rover might go first. The BBC provides an article about the first Mars rock to be zapped by laser fire.

Russian EVA #31 Spacewalk Tasks Illustrated

On Monday, two Russian cosmonauts, Gennady Padalka and Yuri Malenchenko, will venture outside the space station to perform a variety of maintenance tasks. Ten days later, on Aug. 30, American astronaut Sunita Williams and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide will also step out into the vacuum of space to complete their own list of tasks, reports Denise Chow for

The Russian spacewalk is scheduled to last about 6.5 hours, beginning at 10:40 a.m. EDT whereupon the cosmonauts will install debris shields to protect parts of the Russian Zvezda service module, and will move a cargo crane from the Pirs docking module to the nearby Zarya module. The crane is being moved to make way for a new Russian laboratory unit that is scheduled to launch to space station and be installed in 2013, NASA officials said.

NASA Public Affairs Officer Brandi Dean talks with Spacewalk Officer Art Thomason inside the Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center. Expedition 32 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko are scheduled to conduct a 6.5 hour spacewalk on Monday, Aug. 20, 2012.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sending astronauts to explore underground?

Why is ESA sending astronauts to explore underground? Mission accomplished: cave team returns to Earth (ESA).

Training astronauts for space requires remote and inhospitable places to test their reactions to stress and their ability to work in an international team. ESA and international partners also send astronauts underground in Sardinia in Italy for cave training.
The astronauts have to adjust to this extreme environment, where life depends on their equipment and how they use it. They must show team ingenuity in resolving issues and overcoming obstacles.
Learning to work as a team in isolation, with no outside help and only limited rescue capabilities, is part of becoming an effective astronaut. The ‘right stuff’ can be learned, with the right instruction.

Helium Found in Moon's Atmosphere

Scientists using the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) spectrometer aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) have made the first spectroscopic observations of the noble gas helium in the tenuous atmosphere surrounding the moon, notes NASA.

NASA's LRO orbiting the moon
NASA's LRO conducted the remote sensing observations complimenting the first evidence gathered indicating helium on the moon. The data were in-situ measurements taken by the Lunar Atmospheric Composition Experiment (LACE) by the Apollo 17, the last human mission to the lunar surface in 1972.

The lunar scientists (selenologists) gained the ultraviolet emissions visible in the tenuous atmosphere above the lunar surface, detecting helium over a campaign spanning more than 50 orbits of the LRO.

"The question now becomes, does the helium originate from inside the moon, for example, due to radioactive decay in rocks, or from an exterior source, such as the solar wind?" says Dr. Alan Stern, LAMP principal investigator and associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo.

"If we find the solar wind is responsible, that will teach us a lot about how the same process works in other airless bodies," says Stern.

If spacecraft observations show no such correlation, radioactive decay or other internal lunar processes could be producing helium that diffuses from the interior or that is released during lunar quakes.

NASA's LADEE in 2013
The next US moon mission, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), is set for launch from Wallops Island, Virginia in the summer of 2013 on a planned 100-day mission in lunar orbit. Orbital Sciences Corp. will utlize the Minotaur V launch vehicle to lift LADEE into space and carry two major scientific experiments to provide better understand of lunar dust in the moon's atmosphere.

The Lunar Dust EXperiment (LDEX) instrument led by Mihaly Horanyi at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colo. and the UltraViolet Spectrometer (UVS), led by Tony Colaprete at NASA Ames, will provide scientists with more extensive lunar atmospheric analysis.

The instruments will detect and constrain the abundances of species expected to be prevalent at the 50 km altitude, due to the solar wind and its interactions with the surface, release from regolith, and radiogenic sources. The NMS is a quadrupole mass spectrometer designed ot detect species up to 150 amu and will look for CH4, S, O, Si, Kr, Xe, Fe, Al, Ti, Mg, OH, and H2O. The UV/Vis will detect Al, Ca, Fe, K, Li, Na, Si, T, Ba, Mg, H2O, and O and will monitor the dust composition.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Race or Diplomatic Cooperation?

Daryl Morini, a PhD Candidate at the University of Queensland, specializing in preventive diplomacy, has a uniquely  informative article entitled "The Coming U.S.-China Space Race" in The Diplomat (Aug. 15, 2012). He explains the geopolitical context of the reach for space by the People's Republic of China and the United States of America, referencing efforts on the Moon and Mars by each nation.

Morini writes "President Obama praised this event as “a point of national pride far into the future” and a symbol of “our preeminence – not just in space, but here on Earth.”

“In your face, China!” was the not-so-subtle subtext, Michael Brooks pointed out.

The foreign policy peanut gallery also had a field day. The Telegraph paraphrased one Mars expert as suggesting that the untimely loss of Curiosity “could have meant effectively an end to the U.S. venturing into space for at least a generation, and the keys to the solar system would have been handed to the Chinese.” The paper added: “But for now, the Red Planet is firmly in American hands,” Morini pens.

This Blogger must note, the most certain future are that taikonauts will be in space with astronauts and cosmonauts in the foreseeable future. The more significant questions is: will international exploration prevail to carry us back to the moon, Mars and Europa in the first-half of the 21st century?

Masten Space Systems Complete Xombie 750m Mars EDL Divert Trajectory

The Masten Space Systems August 14, 2012 test was completed for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to test its powered descent and landing trajectory optimization algorithms for future Mars Entry Descent & Landing (EDL) applications. NASA is reviewing systems for Moon and Mars landings later in this decade.

Radiation Belt Storm Probes in Launch Mode

The Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission is in the final week of its launch campaign to orbit with NASA-TV webcasting the August 23, 2012 at 4:08 AM from Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 41 in Florida.

The probes are a part of NASA's Living With a Star Geospace program to explore fundamental processes that operate throughout the solar system, in particular those that generate hazardous space weather effects near the Earth and phenomena that could affect solar system exploration. 

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas-V 401 is scheduled to launch the space probes. A $530-million project launch success will inject the satellites into a highly elliptical equatorial orbit to be trimmed to orbits stretching from 375 miles high to an altitude of nearly 19,000 miles to commence science applications. More from SpaceDaily.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Purdue University Scientists Tout Solar Flare Defense System in Surprising Hypotheses

Two Purdue University professors have a potential 'eureka moment' in the science of solar flare prediction. A solar flare earthly defense system with the potential to protect against the devastating and costly effects of a massive solar storm could be on the horizon as now being touted by scientists - Prof Ephraim Fischbach and Prof Jere Jenkins of Purdue University.

Science journalist Johnathan Bell, reporting for the BBC, notes that a British are more sceptical of the hypothesis conclusion made by the Purdue researchers relating a system to detect the rate of breakdown of radioactive materials changes in advance of solar flares. More from gizmag and Futurity.

Solar flare events have been increasing in 2012 as the sun reaches a peak in 2013 of the 11-year cycle. Sunspots have the potential of powerful solar flares unleashing material known as CME into space. The solar wind from the sun strikes the upper atmosphere frequently firing-up the Aurora Borealis in the northern hemisphere.

A number of scientists are also seeking to tie earthquake prediction to solar eruptions. The British and Russians are pondering an Earth science mission seeking results in 2015 about possible nexus between tell-tell aurora activity above earthquake sites.

NASA and NOAA continue to research and study the Earth's star with the SolarProbePlus mission scheduled for launch in 2018.

We're NASA and We Know It (Satire)

Boldly GO!  - Alan Boyle points to the viral video!

JPL has released a more serious video entitled: "Where Were You When Curiosity Landed on Mars?"  The video is highly recommended to grasp the human emotion of the Mars landing from the people at various sites throughout the United States. "JPL! JPL! JPL!"

Amy Shira Teitel provides an analysis of the Mars Curosity landing event and poses the question: "What's with all the peanuts?"  The piece gives the background to the eating of peanuts prior to the "Seven Minutes of Terror" MSL landing sequence. Clearly, the JPL tradition carries on well in interplanetary science.

MARS: Robots Now, Humans by 2030?

Artemis Westenberg of the Netherlands lectured at Planetfest 2012 on Aug 4th --- just hours prior to the landing of the Curiosity robotic rover on the surface of Mars --- talks about humanity on the red planet and the significance of the event.

Artemis Westenberg is the President, Director, and co-founder of Explore Mars, Inc. and intends to see humans walk on Mars within the next two decades. Since 2000, Artemis has been involved in space exploration advocacy as President of the Mars Society Netherlands and Steering Committee member of The Mars Society Inc. In the Netherlands Artemis is often a spokesperson for the space community when Mars is in the Media. She has been quoted in numerous national and international newspapers and magazines and has appeared on national and international television and radio.

The Path of Nicole Stott to Earth Orbit

NASA Astronaut Nicole Stott discusses her path to a spaceflight career, life aboard the International Space Station, the legacy of the Space Shuttle Program, and more.

Deep Caves On Mars? QWIP to Find?

NASA's new Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector (QWIP) can be tuned to detect specific infrared wavelengths. This could be a game-changing technology for medical imaging, pollution detection, fighting wildfires, planetary missions or missile guidance.

WIRED: The Air Force's X-51A Waverider Test Was A Total Failure

UPDATE: The US military launch of a hypersonic unmanned vehicle in a Tuesday test flight  over the Pacific, with the X-51A due to reach mind-boggling speeds of Mach 6 has apparently been a failure, according to WiredThe Los Angeles Times and SpaceTravel.

The Waverider, which resembles a missile with a flat nose, was dropped off the wing of a B-52 bomber off the California coast at an altitude of about 15,000 meters (50,000 feet), according to the US Air Force. The latest test of the experimental vehicle started as scheduled for 10 am local time (1700 GMT) at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California, spokesman Kenji Thuloweit told AFP.

A solid rocket booster will catapult the vehicle to a speed of about Mach 4.5 in 30 seconds before the X-51A's engine accelerates to Mach 6, six times the speed of sound or more than 7,300 kilometers (4,500 miles) per hour. After a scheduled flight of about five minutes -- in which it is expected to reach an altitude of 21,000 meters (70,000 feet) -- the Waverider will splash down in the Pacific, the Air Force said.

India's Prime Minister Approves Mars Effort

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says Indian science and technology will take a giant leap forward under a plan to send a space mission to Mars in November 2013. Singh says his Cabinet has approved an $82-million USD mission that will collect important scientific information about the red planet, notes The HinduIndia TodayThe Washington Post, The Financial Times, and NDTV.

The approval has been expected but some India space policy leaders have been critical suggesting that the new Mars program effort will delay India's entry into human spaceflight.  Former ISRO chief G Madhavan Nair told Zee News that the mission may delay India's human spaceflight efforts.

"My personal opinion is: this (Mars mission) is not a big priority project for us. We should have concentrated more on qualifying the cryogenic engine (for GSLV-Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) and make our manned mission initiative move forward," Nair was quoted as saying by Firstpost.

In all, there have been about 40 missions to Mars with just about half of them being successful with attempts made by USA, Russia, Japan, Europe and China, notes The Times of India. Russia and India are said to be planning a joint human space flight in 2015. India plans to spend $2.5 billion by 2015 on a manned lunar mission, according to Bloomburg BusinessWeek.