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Monday, December 31, 2012

Earth Moving Spin and Geographic Axis

When you think of the Earth's orientation, you'd probably imagine something like a globe, where it always rotates around an axis, called the spin axis, defined by the north and south poles. And while this generally makes sense, in reality, the Earth's orientation is constantly changing very slightly, and this change can be described in three ways.

Nutation and Procession: Nutation and procession are the periodic and long-term motion of the Earth's spin axis in space. The direction of the Earth's axis in space, shown in orange, changes over time with respect to extremely distant objects, such as quasars. When measured with respect to these distant objects, the spin axis appears to trace a circle in the celestial sphere over a long period of time (approximately 26,000 years). This motion is driven by the gravity of the Moon and the Sun acting on the Earth's equatorial bulge. However, because the Moon orbits the Earth once a month, in a tilted, elliptical orbit, the spin axis also undergoes a smaller set of motions on much shorter time scales (days to years). This is why the line traced by the spin axis appears 'bumpy when viewed up close.

Polar Motion - Three Views: Polar motion describes the motion of the Earth's spin axis (shown in orange) with respect to the geographic north and south poles (shown in blue). Over time, the geographic poles appear to spin away from the spin axis when viewed from space and then back again. Viewed from the perspective of someone on Earth, the spin axis instead appears to spiral away from the geographic poles and then spiral back. The motion of the spin pole with respect to the geographic poles fixed to the Earth's crust is called polar motion.

Polar Motion - Overhead View, Earth Reference Frame: This animation demonstrates polar motion from an overhead perspective. It is also depicted from the frame of reference of someone standing on the Earth. From this perspective, the spin axis appears to rotate away from the geographic axis.
Polar Motion - Overhead View, Space Reference Frame: This animation demonstrates polar motion from an overhead perspective. It is also depicted from the frame of reference of someone in space above the Earth. From this perspective, the geographic axis appears to rotate away from the spin axis.
Polar Motion - Side View, Space Reference Frame: This animation demonstrates polar motion from a side-view perspective. It is also depicted from the frame of reference of someone in space above the Earth. From this perspective, the geographic axis appears to rotate away from the spin axis.
UT1: UT1 describes the non-uniform daily rotation of the Earth. At any particular time, the rotation angle of the Earth differs from what would be predicted if the length of day were exactly 24 hours. So, if you were to measure the rotation angle at exactly 12:00 P.M. for many days in a row, you would find that your measurements would vary from day to day, with the overall trend showing that the rotation angle gradually decreases over time. After a long period of time, you would have to add one second to the day, called a 'leap second', to compensate for this.

Comet ISON to provide brilliant sight in 2013

Russian scientists have recently discovered a comet that is passing by our plant and will be visiblewith naked eyes over the western horizon in the Northern Hemisphere in November and December  2013.

The comment, called ISON, may shine brighter than the moon depending on how big its tail will get when it gets closer to the sun. ISON is expected to draw millions of Eathlings onto the darkess to witness what is likely to be the most brilliant comet seen in many generations.
Hale-Bopp Comet over Giza in 1997
While the scientists hesitate to predict its behavior, the positioning of ISON comet at present indicates that it will be visible keeping a two million mile distance from the sun. Due to the brightness expected, the comet may be visible even during day time. If so, ISON will be the brightest comet ever discovered by scientists during the last century or more.
Comet McNaught over Pacific in 2010
Scientists speculate that the trip by our planet may be ISON’S last as it may plunge into the sun or break-up due to its unpredictable path influenced by the sun's gravitational forces. ISON is a two mile wide body made out of rocks and ice. It is currently passing by Saturn, and is gaining speed. It is becoming brighter day by day as it nears our planet throughout the calednar year 2013.

Cosmonauts Send Happy New Year 2013

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky, Evgenie Tarelkin, Novel Романенко from board МКС congratulate earthmen happy New Year! (Космонавты Олег Новицкий, Евгений Тарелкин, Роман Романенко с борта МКС поздравляют землян с НОвым годом!)

Moon Express - Year in Review 2012

ME - onward to the Moon!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Copenhagen Suborbitals Fires-Up TM65

Copenhagen Suborbitals celebrated the new year with a third test of the private space launch liquid propellant engine TM65 (Tordenskjold) producing 65-80kN for 20+ seconds Sunday, December 30, 2012. The engine produces an equivalent of 200,000 Horsepower. Clark Lindsey, however notes, "Tm65 engine failed today. Internal cooling couldnt follow the burn flow."

Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year's Message From Space Station

International Space Station Commander Kevin Ford and Flight Engineers Chris Hadfield and Tom Marshburn of the International Space Station's Expedition 34 crew send down their best wishes for a happy new year.

Romania's ARCA Working ExoMars Project

ARCA signed a $1.1 million contract with the European Space Agency for testing the parachutes used for deceleration in the Mars atmosphere in the ExoMars program.
ARCA will build two large high altitude balloons and two testing vehicles weighting more than half a tone each. The vehicle, named the DTV, or Drop Test Vehicle, will be launched from 30 km altitude, over the Black Sea. The vehicle will fall until it will reach a speed up to 0.8 Mach. At this transonic speed, the DTV will deploy the parachutes to test them in flight, in the simulated Martian atmospheric conditions. The flight data will be transmitted from the DTV to the ARCA's Flight Command and Control Center.

The 9-Minute Soyuz Booster Rocket Lifespan

The lifespan of a soyuz rocket, from launch to the separation of a spacecraft, is only 530 seconds (~9 minutes). The documentary is in Russian.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top 5 Space Stories of 2012!

Top 5 Space Stories of 2012!

10 Science Superlatives of 2012

Hank Green: This year's end News episode wraps up with nothing but superlatives: the biggest, oldest, first, last, smallest and hottest developments in science from 2012.

"The Face of Creation" - Higgs remix

Celebrate 2012's greatest scientific discovery with a remix by melodysheep!

Beidou system starts service in Asia-Pacific

The China Beidou Navigation System, also known as Compass, has started offering free civilian positioning and navigation services over the Asia-Pacific region. The announcement was made during a press conference on Thursday morning, December 27, 2012 in China.

The Beidou satellite network will provide positioning services with an accuracy of 10 meters, or 33 feet. Speed estimates are within less than one foot per second, and time measurements within 10 nanoseconds.

The system has been used in transportation, weather forecasting, hydrological monitoring, and mapping for tests. The Beidou navigation system is developed based on a "three-step" strategy. Currently in its second phase, the system now offers regional service with 16 satellites.
Beidou is planned to offer services to global customers with 35 satellites, upon its completion in 2020.

3rd-Generation TDRS Satellite to Launch

As a vital information pipeline for space-based research and exploration ambitions, the Tracking and Data Relay Satellites  or TDRS constellation fulfills NASA's broadest communication demands.
Now into it's fourth operational decade, the TDRS legacy continue's to be communications excellence. The addition of the third generation of spacecraft will replenish the constellation and ensure that the critical lifeline of space-to-ground communication support will be available for many years to come. TDRS-K or TDRS-11 will launch January 29, 2013.
Before TDRS, NASA relied on a web of ground-based tracking and communication stations located around the globe. These ground stations used large antennas to receive early transmissions from space.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

European Space Agency plans exciting 2013

2013 will be another great year for Europe in Space with launches and missions in several domains. For launchers the second Vega flight is due in springtime but at the same time Ariane and Soyuz will continue their task from Europe's Space port in French Guiana.
In particular Ariane 5 will send another ATV to supply cargo to the International Space station. The ISS will host another ESA astronaut, Luca Parmitano who will participate in a long duration flight between end of May till end of November 2013.
Earth Observation missions are planned with another Earth Explorer, Swarm to study earth Magentic fields and later Sentinel 1 will be sent into orbit, representing the first satellite of the the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme, a partnership between ESA,the European Commission and the European Environment Agency.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Moon-Jupiter Christmas Sky Show

The Moon and Jupiter are converging for a heavenly sky show on Christmas 2012. Got a telescope? Something extra-special is happening on Jupiter that makes it an appealing target for backyard optics.

Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Strategic Plan Released to Governor and Legislators

The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority has delivered to Gov. Bob McDonnell a five-year strategic plan as required by legislation the General Assembly passed during the 2011 session.
The plan evaluates the current state of the authority and describes eight strategic objectives for it to pursue during the next five years. The Startegic Plan, dated Dec. 1, 2012, may be read in full here.
Legislation that took effect July 1, 2012 reconstituted the space flight authority, reformed its board of directors, amended its powers and duties, and provided it additional funding - about $50-million over five years.
The authority “is now poised to become one of the most useable spaceports in the United States. This strategic plan charts the path to achieving that goal, as well as the associated economic development and job creation opportunities resulting from Virginia’s position as a leader in a rapidly growing arena,” Executive Director Dale K. Nash wrote in a letter to McDonnell accompanying the plan.

SpaceX's Grasshopper Takes Leap Toward Full and Rapid Rocket Reusability

SpaceX's Grasshopper takes a 12-story leap towards full and rapid rocket reusability in a test flight conducted December 17, 2012 at SpaceX's rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.
Grasshopper, a vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (VTVL), rose 131 feet (40 meters), hovered and landed safely on the pad using closed loop thrust vector and throttle control. The total test duration was 29 seconds. The rocket even had a dummy 6' cowboy aboard to add persepctive, according to The Blaze.

Grasshopper stands 10 stories tall and consists of a Falcon 9 rocket first stage, Merlin 1D engine, four steel landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure.

SpaceX continues to make affirmative steps toward the first reusable rocket, estimated to cut spaceflight costs 100-fold by Elon Musk. Testing will continue through 2013.

Space Cowboy, a 6' dummy went along for the rocket ride.

Animation of the first fully reusable rocket.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

With a view from beyond the moon, an astronaut talks religion, politics and more

"When you are one of the first three of your species to leave your planet and travel to another, certain things tend to stick with you, even a half-century later. For William Anders, the brightest highlights of his historic flight on Apollo 8, from the Earth to the moon, 44 years ago this month, are vivid," writes journalist Ron Judd for The Seattle Times recently.

Each year at this time, many still recall the Christmas-eve television message from space, as the crew of Apollo 8 cricled the moon gazing back at "the good Earth." It was a profound moment in history as humanity discovered their planet - as if it were for the first time.

NASA plans to 'lasso' asteroid to orbit Moon

The White House's Office of Science and Technology will consider a $2-billion plan in the coming weeks to capture a 500 ton asteroid, relocate it and turn it into a space station for astronauts on their way to Mars as it prepares to set its space exploration agenda for the next decade.
If approved it would be the first time a celestial object has ever been lassoed and moved by humans, reports The Daily Mail in London in reviewing of a planning assessment by NASA and the California Institute of Technology.
A, 'asteroid capture capsule' would be attached to an old Atlas V rocket and directed the asteroid between the earth and the moon. Once close, the asteroid capsule would release a 50ft diameter bag that wrap around the spinning rock using drawstrings. The craft would then turn on its thrusters, using an estimated 300kg of propellant, to stop the asteroid in its tracks and tow it into a gravitationally neutral spot. From here space explorers would have a stationary base from which to launch trips deeper into space.
'The feasibility is enabled by three key developments: the ability to discover and characterize an adequate number of sufficiently small near-Earth asteroids for capture and return; the ability to implement sufficiently powerful solar electric propulsion systems to enable transportation of the captured asteroid; and the proposed human presence in cislunar space in the 2020s enabling exploration and exploitation of the returned asteroid.

Orion Now 20-Months from Test Flight

The new Orion spacecraft is on target for a September 2014 test flight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta-IV Heavy on the uncrewed Exploration Flight Test-1 mission (EFT-1).
The spacecraft will travel 3,600 miles above Earth's surface. This is 15 times farther than the International Space Station's orbit and farther than any spacecraft designed to carry humans has gone in more than 40 years. The main flight objective is to test Orion's heat shield performance at speeds generated during a return from deep space.
Orion will reenter Earth's atmosphere at speeds of more than 20,000 mph and upon slowing in the upper Earth's atmosphere, the spacecraft will have multiple parachutes to bring it to a safe splashdown.

If all continues to go as planned, the Orion spacecraft will be placed atop of the Space Launch System in 2017 for testing with a  circumlunar trajectory on Exploration Mission-1. Humans will fly the Orion spacecraft around the Moon sometime between 2019 and 2021 on Exploration Mission-2.

North Korea's Kim Jong-un hosts massive banquet for Unha-3 rocket scientists

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hosted a banquet for scientists to celebrate the "successful" Unha-3 rocket launch two weeks ago, saying that it "showed off our overall national power" as the Communist leader called for development of more powerful rockets.

Kim had already called for sending more scientific satellites into space on the day of the launch. But his speech on Friday, December 21, 2012 marks the first time he is explicitly calling for the advancement of his country's long-range rocket program.

North Korea awarded a “hero’s title,” one of the highest accolades in the country, to 101 scientists and technicians involved in the rocket development, its state-run news media reported Sunday. More from The New York Times.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un addresses rocket scientists.

Performance given by the Moranbong Band in congratulatory concert to mark the successful launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2 with Kim Jong-un and his wife in attendance.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority Board of Directors Reconstituted by Gov.

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell is reconstituting the board of directors of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority following the enactment of legalisation in July 1, 2012 downsizing of the board from 13-members to nine, and expanding its five-year budget to nearly $50-million.
The previous board appointed Dale Nash as the new executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority in June 2012.
The authority's new board membership includes in the Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton; the Director of the Virginia Department of Aviation Randall Burdette; Vincent Boles of Annandale, General Manager of the Advanced Technology Division for Aerospace Corporation, John R. Broderick of Norfolk, President of Old Dominion University; John N. Jester of Chincoteague Island, retired Department of Defense Agency Director; and Jack Kennedy of Wise, Clerk of Court for Wise County and City of Norton and a Space Frontier Foundation Advocate. Gov. McDonnell is expected to appoint three additional members prior to the end of the calendar year.
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport will host commercial space launches to the International Space Station and a civil space launch to the Moon in 2013.

Copenhagen Suborbitals: Tycho Deep Space I

The complete story of the development and test of DIY space capsule Tycho Deep Space I by Copenhagen Suborbitals. Created and edited by Claus Mejling. The story is told over 40-minutes.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mars Curiosity Going to 'Grandma's House'

Curiosity will spend the holidays at a location on Mars dubbed 'Grandma's House'.

A Message from ISS to All Humankind

NASA Television shares this inspiring production by Italian videomaker, Giacomo Sardelli, about the International Space Station, its inhabitants, and its role in space exploration.
Sardelli writes of the video, "I'm not the first one to use NASA's pictures taken from the International Space Station to craft a Timelapse video. You can find many of them on the Internet, that's where my inspiration came from. What I wanted to do, though, was to look beyond the intrinsic beauty of those pictures, and use them to tell a story and share the messages sent by the astronauts who worked on the station in the last 11 years."

Soyuz TMA-27A Dcoks with ISS; Crew @6

Russian manned transportation spacecraft Soyuz TMA-27A has docked with the International Space Station (ISS) after two days of autonomous flight in low Earth orbit. Approach to the station, its fly-around, sationkeeping and berthing were performed nominally in an automatic mode. At 18 hours 9 minutes Moscow Time, approach contact of the ISS Russian Segment Rassvet MRM1 research module docking assembly port took place.

Expedition 34 Flight Engineers Tom Marshburn, Roman Romanenko and Chris Hadfield docked their Soyuz TMA-27A spacecraft to the International Space Station's Rassvet module at 9:09 a.m. EST on Friday, Decemeber 21, 2012 after spending two days in orbit.
The hatches between the Soyuz and the Rassvet module were opened at 11:37 a.m. EST and Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford and Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin welcomed their new crewmates aboard. The six-member crew took part in a welcome ceremony with family members and mission officials then participated in a safety briefing.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

NASA Z-1 prototype space suit is a buzz

NASA's next generation of space suit - the agency's first in 20 years - will look familiar to fans of computer generated cartoon classic Toy Story. That's because the new white and green Z-1 suit bears more than a passing resemblance to the interstellar hero Buzz Lightyear, notes news reports around-the-globe.
'Z-1 Prototype Spacesuit and Portable Life Support System (PLSS) 2.0' to give it its full title, will hopefully be ready in the next couple of years as the Z-2 and Z-3 version lead to their first use in space in 2017 at the International Space Station, notes SlashGear.

Ariane 5 Takes to French Guiana Dark Sky

Arianespace's Ariane 5 flight with the Skynet 5D and Mexsat Bicentenario satellite passengers today wrapped up another busy year of company launch activity from the Spaceport in French Guiana. More from NASASpaceflight.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sen. Mikulski to Chair Senate Appropriations

Sen. Barbara Mikulski
A series of dominoes fell Wednesday on Capitol Hill that left Sen. Barbara Mikulski in line to take the gavel of the Senate Appropriations Committee, a move that would significantly increase Maryland’s clout in the chamber and make her the first woman to helm the panel, reports The Washington Post.
There is a probability, however, that Mikulski may relinquish the chair of the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations subcommittee, whose jurisdiction includes NASA. There is also the possibility she could retain it.

The Senate Democratic Caucus still must ratify her appointment to be committee chair. That vote is expected tomorrow, notes SpacePolicyOnline.
"It is especially gratifying to be the first woman to lead this powerful committee," the 76-year-old lawmaker said in a statement. "I am grateful for this opportunity to fight for the day-to-day needs of the American people and the long-range needs of the nation."
The House and Senate appropriations committees set spending policies for Congress. How it might change the spending priorities of NASA and those of Gaddard and Wallops is yet to be seen but impact is almost certain.

Read more here:

Tau Ceti Star May Host One Habitable Planet

Scientist have discovered a sun-like star with five planets orbiting. One could possibly sustain life.

LIFTOFF of Soyuz TMA-07M to ISS

Expedition 34/35 Soyuz Commander Roman Romanenko, Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn of NASA and Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency launched on the Russian Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft on Dec. 19, 2012 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to begin a two-day journey to the International Space Station. The trio will dock to the station Dec. 21, 2012 to start a five month mission, joining station Commander Kevin Ford and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin, who have been on the outpost since late October 2012. More from Bill Harwood at CNET.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Soyuz TMA-27A on Baikonur Launch Pad

At Baikonur launch site the preparations continue for the launch of Soyuz TMA-27A transport manned vehicle under the International Space Station program. Soyuz launch vehicle was rolled out from the integration building to the launch pad for the final countdown.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ebb and Flow Crash on the Moon

NASA's twin GRAIL spacecrafts Ebb and Flow ended their mission Monday by crashing into the Moon's surface. The space agency named the site where twin agency spacecraft impacted the moon Monday in honor of the late astronaut Sally K. Ride, who was America's first woman in space and a member of the probes' mission team.     
The location of the Sally K. Ride Impact Site is on the southern face of an approximately 1.5-mile-tall (2.5-kilometer) mountain near a crater named Goldschmidt. The impact marked a successful end to the GRAIL mission, which was NASA's first planetary mission to carry cameras fully dedicated to education and public outreach. Ride, who died in July, led GRAIL's MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students) Program through her company, Sally Ride Science, in San Diego.                         

Sunday, December 16, 2012

One small dish for man

Un Petit plat pour l'Homme from Onectin on Vimeo.
"The Kitchen" is Corentin Charron creation. Christophe Charron pointed to the video with the requested it be posted here.

Is the Moon more important internationally?

Dr. Scott Pace presents a vision of lunar exploration by NASA together with Europe and Asia. Dr. Pace then answers questions from Ralph Hall and Jim Sensenbrenner. Extracts from the House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on NASA's strategic direction held in Washington on 12 December 2012. The full hearing is available at C-SPAN.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Chang'E 2 zooms in on asteroid Toutatis

The Chinese space probe Chang'E 2 imaging of the asteroid Toutatis (and PHO) during arecent flyby of Earth was beyond expectations.
The closest fly-by was at 08:30:09 UTC on December 13 at an altitude of just 3.2 km and at a relative velocity of 10.73 km/s. Quite a few photos were snapped by the CCD camera - including this series of photos taken 93 - 240 km away from Toutatis, according to Emily Lakdawalla at The Planetary Society.
The Chinese images, in combination with the incredible radar images still being acquired from Goldstone and innumerable optical observations, make Toutatis one of the best-studied asteroids in the solar system. More from Alan Boyle at Cosmic Log and China's Xinhua.

ISS Exp 34/35 Crew Preps in Baikonur

Cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, and Canadian Space Agency astronaut, Chris Hadfield, participate in pre-launch activities in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The trio is slated to board a Soyuz rocket and liftoff for the International Space Station on Dec. 19, 2012 for a long-duration stay. The video is 33-minutes.

Friday, December 14, 2012

LANDSAT-8 to go to space early in 2013

The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), or Landsat-8 as it will be known upon its launch, will be launched in February 2013 aboard at Atlas-V from California to circle the globe collecting data for NASA and the Department of Interior, the seventh satellite to launch since 1972.
The newest LandSat satellite in the fleet will extend the 40-year legacy of satellites that continuously collect data and images of the Earth’s surface and widely used by remote sensing scientists around the globe.
Landsat-5 and Landsat-7 are currently in commission for the project, however, upon the successful launch of Landsat-8, the fifth satellite will be decommissioned and taken out of orbit.Iverson said. The sixth in the series did not make it into space.
The goal of Landsa-t8 is to remain fully operational into 2023. The data collection benefits many industries, including agriculture, geology, forestry, regional planning, education, mapping, global change research, emergency response and disaster relief.
The Landsat-8 satellite has two new spectral bands, which will allow it to detect clouds on coastal zones. Additionally, it will produce more than twice as many images per day than the Landsat-7.

More from The Phoenix Business Journal.

SatTV talks to Tom Maher of Dougherty Quinn

Richard Hooper talks to Tom Maher, Dougherty Quinn (DQ) about the Isle of Man and its thriving space sector in cooperation with ManSat.

Maher points to the 'open door' policy of the small-sized government enables adaptation quickly to any changing environment and a key driver to success. He points to the Isle of Mann world class intellectual property law and strong international competitiveness.

The DQ Advocate points to the growth of the commercial space sector benefiting from the Isle of Man low taxation, pro-space, pro-business government, thriving private sector with start-up grant aid, skilled workforce, and a growing expertise cluster in space commerce.  More from the Isle of Man Examiner and the Financial Times.

NASA Advancing KSC Launch Infrastructure

NASA's Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is developing the technologies and innovations to launch the next generation of rockets and spacecraft. The Kennedy Space Center is the site of significant federal launch infrastructure investment for the 21st century.

Last lift-off from the Moon 14 Dec. 1972

Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt successfully lifted off from the lunar surface in the ascent stage of the Lunar Module on December 14, 1972 at 5:55 PM EST marking the last time humans were on the surface of the Moon. After a successful rendezvous and docking with Ron Evans in the Command/Service Module in orbit, the crew transferred equipment and lunar samples between the LM and the CSM for return to Earth. No humans have been back to the Moon since this day forty years ago.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

North Korea's Kim Jong-Un Orders Additional Orbital Satellite Launches in New Year

North Korea's Kim Jong-Un has ordered his military to prepare more rockets as he stressed the need "to launch satellites in the future... to develop the country's science, technology and economy", according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and reported by the Yonhap News Agency in South Korea.

Kim sent a personally signed approval for North Korean scientists to launch the rocket on Wednesday, and later visited a control center outside Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, to oversee the procedure, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.

The launch “cemented our position as a space technology powerhouse by indisputably demonstrating that our nation has climbed the pinnacle of world-class advanced technology,” Kim was quoted as saying, adding that the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite was “built with our technology and wisdom alone.”
The North’s “peaceful space program” resulted from its policy of “developing scientific technology and the economy,” Kim said. “We must continue to launch satellites.”
Despite American sources reporting that the North Korean satellite "tumbles out of control", South Korea said on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2012, the satellite by North Korea's long-range rocket was in operational orbit, confirming the apparent success of Pyongyang's stated space mission.
"It is not yet known what kind of mission the satellite is conducting. It usually takes two weeks to evaluate whether a satellite is successful. For the time being, it is working normally," Kim said.
NPR provides more details as to the North Korean challenge to control the orbital satellite.

The Man Who Hunts Spy Satellites

Vice Magazine went to Paris to interview premier astrophotographer, Thierry Legault, about tracking spy satellites in the sky. It's a story of mutual surveillance, adept tracking and ultimately one man's quest to do "things that nobody has done before."

Erin Lee Carr provides the story to Vice Magazine entitled "Satellite Hunter".

NASA GRAIL probes to crash into Moon

NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission's spacecrafts Ebb and Flow will end their successful mission on Monday, December 17, 2012 at 5:28pm EST. More from NASA and The Los Angeles Times.

Lunar Science Post-Apollo: where from here

"Lunar Science in the Wake of Human Exploration: Four Decades of Samples and Surface Data" in a fascinating review of the Moon by many of the leading experts.

Europeans Training for ISS Spaceflights

European Space Agency's Human Space Flight program is gaining more and more experience with several long duration missions aboard the International Space Station. In 2013 and 2014 the recently recruited new generation of European astronauts will enjoy the experience of orbiting the Earth. Luca Parmitano will fly from Baikonur next May 2013 for six months, followed in 2014 by Alexander Gerst and then Samantha Cristoforetti. More from the ESA.

NASA Langley's Lesa Roe Talks of center's role in human spaceflight and new tech

NASA EDGE interviews NASA Langley Research Center's Director Lesa Roe in Hampton, Va. about the center's role in human space exploration and the role in the maturation of new technologies to assist in human and robotic spaceflight and exploration. The center works with each of the NASA-funded commercial crew spaceflight companies developing spacecraft as well as those now contracted to deliver cargo to ISS.

Apollo 17: Last Human Moments on Moon

"I'm on the surface; and, as I take man's last step from the surface, back home for some time to come — but we believe not too long into the future — I'd like to just [say] what I believe history will record. That America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17." - Apollo 17 Astronaut Eugene Cernan (December 13, 1972)

Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan was recently asked what was going through his mind as he stepped on the ladder to return to Earth from the Moon. Cernan said, "I physically hesitated, asking what the meaning of the last three days was - not just to me, but to all who would follow, and not just technologically but philosophically, spiritually. I didn't have an answer then, and I don't now."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dare Mighty Things: 50th Anniversary of Planetary Exploration and 1st Trek to Venus

Fifty years ago on a mid-December day (Dec. 14, 1962), NASA's Mariner 2 spacecraft sailed close to the shrouded planet Venus, marking the first time any spacecraft had ever successfully made a close-up study of another planet. The flyby, 36 million miles (58 million kilometers) away from Earth, gave America its first bona fide space "first" after five years in which the Soviet Union led with several space exploration milestones. Designed and built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., the successful Mariner 2 spacecraft ushered in a new era of solar system exploration. More from NASA/JPL.

Moon Mission Coming to End Dec. 17th

Hank Green tells viewers about the planned demise of two lunar satellites, Grail A and Grail B, that have been collecting data for NASA the past year, and have now reached the end of their mission. More coming from NASA press conference December 13, 2012.

Hundreds of students throughout the United States pointed cameras known collectively as MoonKAM at various surface targets throughout the year-long mission as a means to interest the next generation in lunar science and exploration.

The Future of Spaceport America: 'Informed Consent' Waiver Deemed Key in 2013

New Mexico State University's WRWG-TV host Fred Martino and a studio audience ask questions of Spaceport America Executive Director Christine Anderson and Virgin Galactic Senior Program Manager Mark Butler earlier this month. The conversation turned to spaceflight liability and immunity legislation and its importance to the future of the commercial purpose spaceport.

Virginia was the first state in the nation to enact human spaceflight immunity and liability law in 2007. Virginia was followed by Florida in 2008. New Mexico enacted a more limited measure that failed to provide informed consent to the spacecraft supply chain.  Texas, Colorado and California have passed various forms of state 'informed consent.'

Mini-Nile River Flowing on Saturiuan moon

Scientists with NASA's Cassini mission have spotted what appears to be a miniature, extraterrestrial likeness of Earth's Nile River: a river valley on Saturn's moon Titan that stretches more than 200 miles (400 kilometers) from its "headwaters" to a large sea. It is the first time images have revealed a river system this vast and in such high resolution anywhere other than Earth, according to NASA/JPL.  
Saturian moon Titan
Scientists deduce that the river, which is in Titan's north polar region, is filled with liquid hydrocarbons because it appears dark along its entire length in the high-resolution radar image, indicating a smooth surface.                
Titan is the only other world we know of that has stable liquid on its surface. While Earth's hydrologic cycle relies on water, Titan's equivalent cycle involves hydrocarbons such as ethane and methane. In Titan's equatorial regions, images from Cassini's visible-light cameras in late 2010 revealed regions that darkened due to recent rainfall. Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer confirmed liquid ethane at a lake in Titan's southern hemisphere known as Ontario Lacus in 2008.    
Artist concept of Titan surface
The radar image here was taken on Sept. 26, 2012. It shows Titan's north polar region, where the river valley flows into Kraken Mare, a sea that is, in terms of size, between the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea on Earth. The real Nile River stretches about 4,100 miles (6,700 kilometers). The processes that led to the formation of Earth's Nile are complex, but involve faulting in some regions.    

North Korean Satellite "Tumbles Out of Control" Tracking Data Analysis Indicates

The satellite launched by the People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) appears to be "tumbling out of control" in an attempt to place an space object into a polar orbit around the Earth, American officials told NBCNews.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang claimed the Unha-3 rocket successfully delivered a scientific satellite into orbit known as Kwangmyongsong-3. 'Kwangmyongsong' means 'lodestar' or 'star of hope' and is believed to be a reference to former leader Kim Jong Il. The satellite may be tracked in real time.
The Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite has been given the satellite catalog number (NORAD Code) 39026 and the international designator code 12-072A — both identifications that help keep sorted the catalogs of satellites and junk in orbit around the planet. The satellite is soaring approximately 350 miles above Earth, moving at a rate of 4.7 miles per second. The satellite has a reported orbital period of 96 minutes.

The "out of control" satellite now poses a collision risk to other satellites in low earth orbit. The US Strategic Command tracks small pieces of debris, but space crashes generate particles that may not be tracked. The thousands of objects that may result from such an accident put other satellites, spaceships and the life of astronauts at risk. Kwangmyongsong-3 adds more to track among the 500,000 to 600,000 estimated now in orbit.

Following the success of the latest launch, North Korean motor vehicles with loudspeakers drove through Pyongyang streets to announce the “momentous event”. An official statement said that North Korea had exercised the “independent right to use space for peaceful purposes” by placing a satellite into an orbit that will take it over both poles, reported The Telegraph.  The UN Security Council demurrers citing a violation of two UN Security Council resolutions.

Rock Comet Meteor Shower Coming

The Geminid meteor shower peaks on Dec. 13th and 14th 2012 when Earth runs through a stream of debris from a strange object that some astronomers are calling a "rock comet."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

North Korea Places Satellite in Orbit

North Korea defied international warnings and fired a long-range rocket Wednesday, the second launch under its new leader and a clear sign Pyongyang is pushing forward with its quest to develop the technology needed to deliver a nuclear warhead, notes The Washington Post.
Pyongyang insists is a scientific mission aimed at putting a satellite in orbit and that the rocket successfully operated, reports CBS, The New York Times, the BBC and The Guardian, quoting North Korean news sources.  NORAD confirmed the satellite in orbit.
"The second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 successfully lifted off from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province by carrier rocket Unha-3 on Wednesday.
The satellite entered its preset orbit. — KCNA, December 12, 2012."

More from 38 North and North Korea Technology.

Eric Sirotkin of the National Campaign to End the Korean War provides analysis of the North Korean satellite launch and the road ahead to RT.

X-37-C Human-rated Mini-Shuttle in Works?

Arthur Grantz, chief engineer of Space and Intelligence Systems' Experimental Systems Group at Boeing, indicated last year that the U.S. Air Force and Boeing are already on the way toward developing a manned Shuttle replacement based on the X-37B robot space plane.
Grantz says that the X-37B's successor, the larger X-37C, could be used as a cargo ship for the International Space Station. There are already several spacecraft in service and under development that could do that, but Grantz says that the X-37C could also be easily modified to carry passengers, noted Leonard David last year.

The Boeing X-37B robotic space plane — also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle or OTV — is being operated by the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, toting top-secret payloads into Earth orbit. More from the USAF,  Forbes, and NASASpaceflight.

The Last American Flag on the Moon

The first moonwalk of the last mission placing humans on the surface of the Moon began approximately four hours after landing, at about 6:55 PM on December 11, 1972 (40 years ago). The first task of the first lunar excursion was to offload the Lunar Roving Vehicle and other equipment from the Lunar Module.
LRO image shows the Apollo 17 American flag still there ...

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sir Patrick Moore, the "fearlessly eccentric" Voice of the Space Age, Gone at Age 89

The Great Unknown.
The late Sir Patrick Moore presented the BBC program The Sky At Night for over 50 years, making him the longest-running host of the same television show ever, notes the BBC. More from Sky&Tel.

The First Man - Neil Armstrong conducted one of his rare interviews with Sir Patrick Moore.

Astronaut Catherine Coleman on Apollo 17

NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman visits 22News on Apollo anniversary

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Documentary: "Overview"

OVERVIEW from Planetary Collective on Vimeo.

The Planetary Collective "Overview" was released December 7, 2012. On the 40th anniversary of the final launch of the Apollo missions to the Moon, a new short film “Overview” has been released, which explores this phenomenon through interviews with five astronauts who have experienced first-hand seeing Earth from space.

Frank White’s book “The Overview Effect,” was published in 1987 describing the Overview Effect  as a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts and cosmonauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from orbit or from the lunar surface. It has been described as one being completely engulfed by a profound sense of universal connectedness.

Space journalist Jeff Foust recently penned an article in Space Review entitled "The Overview Effect at 25" in which he speaks with the book's author.

Russian to add 'Nauka' MLM to ISS in 2014

 Russian-made Nauka will be attached in 2014 (at bottom) shown in rendering.
The Nauka, also known as the Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) and designed by Energia corporation, will be a component of the International Space Station (ISS), funded by the Russian Federal Space Agency. The module is now slated for launch aboard a Proton-M in 2014. Nauka will serve as Russia's primary research module but will also have stowage and crew work areas. (SpaceRef
Nauka will initially be used for experiments, docking and cargo. It will also serve as a crew work and rest area. Nauka will be equipped with full guidance and navigation control including engines and an attitude control system that can be used as a backup by the ISS. It will be docked onto the Zvezda module's nadir (Earth facing) docking port. The new module will contain crew quarters with life support equipment including atmospheric processing, galley and toilet.

Alan Parsons: "A Dream Within a Dream"

Memories of four decades past set to the words of Orson Welles and music of The Alan Parsons Project's "A Dream Within a Dream" - based on the poem of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe.
Learn about Golden Spike Company's plan to land paying astronauts on the moon by 2020, in this infographic.
Source All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

Friday, December 07, 2012

This Week @NASA: December 7, 2012

NASA will launch a new rover to Mars in 2020. That plan was among the science news NASA made at the 2012 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. Also, Voyager 1 travels "magnetic highway"; Van Allen Probes reveal structures and dynamics in Earth's radiation belts; Kelly and Kornienko on mission; new ISS crew; astro Joe goes social; Curious in Times Square; fainting booms; Climate Day; and, more!

Isle of Man: Private Sector Space Revolution

SatTV Week brings you the latest news and views from the global satellite industry. The week's special segment focuses on the Isle of Man's growth in commercial space.  Tom Maher points out that the "key factor for the future" is the "private sector space revolution."

Curiosity Competes Instrument Check-Out

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover team wraps up its scientific study at Rocknest.

Going into "the business of lunar exploration"

Video for Reuters from the Golden Spike Company press conference in Washington. More from National Public Radio (NPR) "Is Another Moon Mission Written In The Stars?"

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Apollo 17 was NASA's 6th and final Mission to send a team of Astronauts to Explore the Moon's surface for three days. Take a ride with the Astronauts as they take the Lunar Rover out for a spin, off-roading one final time to explore the Mystery and Wonder of the Moons surface.

Apollo 17 was the final  human mission of the Apollo space program. Launched at 12:33 a.m. EST on 7 December 1972, with a three-member crew consisting of Commander Eugene Cernan, Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans, and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 remains the most recent manned Moon landing and the most recent manned flight beyond low Earth orbit.

"It is tremendously disappointing that I am here 40 years later and still hold that title or have that yoke on my shoulders," retired Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan recently told VOA. "A half century ago, we went 250,000 miles, cracked the door open, and never walked through it into the future. The future is still out there."

"To say that I thought it would be 40 years, or what is really going to turn out to be 50 or 60 years before Americans are back on the moon, I would not have guessed that at all," fellow Apollo 17 astronaut/moonwalker Harrison Schmitt, the only scientist to walk the surface of the moon, said.

"When you're in a deep valley with as bright a sun as you can imagine illuminating the slopes, against a blacker than black sky," Schmitt says, "and you look up in the sky at your home world, you know you're someplace different."

Jack Schmitt on the Moon in 1972
The BBC Discovery program recently recorded an 18-minute radio interview entitled "Last Man, First Scientist on the Moon" with Schmitt in which he states private firms could make a return on the huge investment needed to set up extra-terrestrial mining operations by garnering a new source of fuel called helium-3.

"Government is too inefficient to make the costs come down where it would be economic. It will be an entrepreneurial effort," he told the BBC

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Golden Spike Plans Private Human Moon Missions for $750-Million USD Per Person

The MIT Technology Review, NASASpaceflight, Forbes, the BBC, Discovery News, Wired, NBCNews, and the Christian Science Monitor provide insight to the announced plans of the Golden Spike Company.

Asteroid or Moon: The question remains ...

Animation of a human mission to a Near Earth Asteroid (NEA)
A new National Research Council of the National Academies report is now available: NASA's Strategic Direction and the Need for a National Consensus.
The committee has seen little evidence that a current stated goal for NASA’s human spaceflight program—namely, to visit an asteroid by 2025—has been widely accepted as a compelling destination by NASA’s own workforce, by the nation as a whole, or by the international community.
Return to the Moon in Next Decade?
On the international front there appears to be continued enthusiasm for a mission to the Moon but not for an asteroid mission, although there is both U.S. and international interest in robotic missions to asteroids. This lack of consensus on the asteroid-first mission scenario undermines NASA’s ability to establish a comprehensive, consistent strategic direction that can guide program planning and budget allocation. While the committee did not undertake a technical assessment of the feasibility of an asteroid mission, it was informed by several briefers and sources that the current planned asteroid mission has significant shortcomings. Ore from The Los Angeles Times and ScienceInsider/ScienceMagzine.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Let your light shine tonight ...

In daylight our big blue marble is all land, oceans and clouds. But the night - is electric.

This view of Earth at night is a cloud-free view from space as acquired by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership Satellite (Suomi NPP). A joint program by NASA and NOAA, Suomi NPP captured this nighttime image by the satellite's Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). The day-night band on VIIRS detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe signals such as city lights, gas flares, and wildfires. This new image is a composite of data acquired over nine days in April and thirteen days in October 2012. It took 312 satellite orbits and 2.5 terabytes of data to get a clear shot of every parcel of land surface.
The above video uses the Earth at night view created by NASA's Earth Observatory with data processed by NOAA's National Geophysical Data Center and combined with a version of the Earth Observatory's Blue Marble: Next Generation.

22 days of data from the Suomi NPP satellite went into making this beautiful and eerie view of the Earth at night, spinning in a black sky. The satellite can see in the visible and near-infrared at high sensitivity, able to map city lights, fires, and even moonlit weather. This animation is made from real images, mapped onto the previously existing Blue Marble images to make the view more realistic.

Golden Spike Company to make announcment

Earth as seen setting from the Moon (JAXA)
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 17, the last human exploration of the Moon, Former Apollo Flight Director and NASA Johnson Space Center Director, Gerry Griffin, and planetary scientist and former NASA science chief, Dr. Alan Stern, will unveil "The Golden Spike Company" – the first company planning to offer routine exploration expeditions to the surface of the Moon by the end of the decade. The executives will describe its team of leading aerospace engineers and world-class scientists, the mission architecture, and the business model at a media conference at the National Press Club, Bloomberg Room, from 2-3pm on December 6, 2012.
The Golden Spike Company is a US-based commercial space company incorporated in 2010. It is named after the ceremonial final spike that joined the rails of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States, on May 10, 1869, and opened up the frontier to new opportunities. Similarly, Golden Spike intends to break new ground and create an enduring link to the next frontier, providing regular and reliable expeditions to the Moon at prices that are a fraction of any lunar program ever conceived of before. (PR Newswire)  More from MIT Technology Review.

New Moon Graviety Field Map Released

Twin NASA probes orbiting Earth's moon have generated the highest resolution gravity field map of any celestial body. The new map, created by the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, is allowing scientists to learn about the moon's internal structure and composition in unprecedented detail.  
The short movie above shows the variations in the lunar gravity field as measured by GRAIL during the primary mapping mission from March to May 2012. Very precise microwave measurements between two spacecraft, named Ebb and Flow, were used to map gravity with high precision and high spatial resolution. The field shown resolves blocks on the surface of about 12 miles (20 kilometers) and measurements are three to five times improved over previous data. Red corresponds to mass excesses and blue corresponds to mass deficiencies. The map shows more small-scale detail on the far side of the moon compared to the nearside because the far side has many more small craters.

GRAIL Principal Investigator Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge notes that the moon's gravity field preserves the record of impact bombardment that characterized all terrestrial planetary bodies and reveals evidence for fracturing of the interior extending to the deep crust and possibly the mantle. This impact record is preserved, and now precisely measured, on the moon. 
The map was created by the spacecraft transmitting radio signals to define precisely the distance between them as they orbit the moon in formation. As they fly over areas of greater and lesser gravity caused by visible features, such as mountains and craters, and masses hidden beneath the lunar surface, the distance between the two spacecraft will change slightly.
While results from the primary science mission are just beginning to be released, the collection of gravity science by the lunar twins continues. GRAIL's extended mission science phase began Aug. 30 and will conclude Dec. 17, 2012. As the end of mission nears, the spacecraft will operate at lower orbital altitudes above the moon.

Press Conference with the NASA-JPL-MIT-Goddard ard Team.