Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Solar Eclipse

Some members of the Orange County Space Society are on a cruse ship viewing the Solar eclipse. Here is an interactive map on Space Weather.
Tourists and scientists were gathering at spots around the world for a solar show -- the first total eclipse in years, which will sweep northeast from Brazil to Mongolia, blotting out the sun across swathes of of the world's poorest lands.

Wednesday's eclipse will blot out the sun in highly populated areas, including west Africa, where governments scrambled to educate people about the dangers of looking at the eclipse without proper eye protection.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Moon article in WaPo

This article from the Washington Post is positive on the Moon-Mars plan outlined by Bush's space exploration plan. The Moon is more of a harsh environment but if we don't have a base there the Chinese will. And it is a stepping stone to Mars. Also, the Helium-3 can be mined for resources. HT to Blogs for Bush here..
Not having to pay as dearly for mistakes is one key reason why the moon is an integral part of the Bush initiative. The other, as even scientists point out, is that if the United States does not return to the moon, others will.

"The new thing is China, and they've announced they're going to the moon. The Europeans want to go; the Russians want to go; and if we don't go, maybe they'll go with the Chinese," Mars Institute Chairman Pascal Lee said in an interview. "Could we bypass the moon and go to Mars while India and China are going to the moon? I don't think so."

Bush's 2004 "Vision for Space Exploration," by calling for a lunar return and a subsequent Mars mission, set goals, which, if achieved, would keep the United States in the forefront of space exploration for decades.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The first space Chimp

My daughter's liked my Laika post on the Russian Space dog. I told them the US had sent up monkeys, rats and assorted animals. Enos the chimp was the first to orbit the earth in a Mecury capsule. Do you remember the Right Stuff. I believe it was John Glenn who complained it was a chimp that got to orbit first, not a human!
Enos became the first chimp to orbit the earth on November 29, 1961, aboard a Mercury Atlas rocket. Although the mission plan originally called for three orbits, due to a malfunctioning thruster and other technical difficulties, flight controllers were forced to terminate Enos' flight after two orbits. Enos landed in the recovery area and was picked up 75 minutes after splashdown. He was found to be in good overall condition and both he and the Mercury spacecraft performed well. His mission concluded the testing for a human orbital flight, achieved by John Glenn on February 20, 1962. Enos died at Holloman Air Force Base of a non-space related case of dysentery 11 months after his flight.

I could not find a picture of Enos, I did find one on Sam the Rheus Monkey here. Sam was sent up in a Little Joe-2 (LJ-2) spacecraft. The US NAVY recovered the little sucker after 3 minutes of weightlessness.

Another space chimp was Ham pictured here with his trainer (here).

Buzz gets an Exploration Award

Buzz Aldren recieved the NASA's Ambassador of Exploration Award at the California Science Center in Los Angeles today here.
Aldrin is one of 38 recipients of the Ambassador of Exploration Award, all of whom were astronauts or other key individuals who participated in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. The award is a small sample of lunar material encased in Lucite and mounted for public display. The material is part of the 842 pounds of samples brought back to Earth during the six Apollo lunar expeditions from 1969 to 1972. Aldrin's award will be displayed in the Sketch Foundation Gallery: Air & Space Exhibits, California Science Center, 700 State Street, Los Angeles.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Falcon 1 lost power into one minute of flight

I'm sad to say the Falcon 1 flight failed today into one minute of flight. In the past, NASA too had failed launches. I recall the Vanguard TV-3 (Dec 6, 1957). It slightly went up a few feet and fell down and collapsed in a heap at the launch pad. At least Falcon got up there in the blue sky. Keep trying Elon! You'll have success.

Falcon 1 is a 70-foot-long, two-stage rocket powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene. Its first stage is designed to parachute into the ocean to be recovered and used again.

The Falcon 1 is intended to be the first in a family of low-cost rockets. SpaceX said that even before the first launch it already had eight contracts for launches through 2010 valued at nearly $200 million.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Spirit wheel not working

One of the rovers wheel is stuck. The other five wheels are working though, dragging Spirit along up a crater slope. (HT KFWB/LATIMES here.

The right front wheel previously had an episode of balkiness but this week the motor that turns the wheel stopped working, the space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement.

"It is not drawing any current at all," Jacob Matijevic, rover engineering team chief, said in the statement.

Spirit and its twin, Opportunity, landed on opposite sides of the Red Planet in January 2004 and have long outlasted missions originally planned to span 90 Martian days, which are a different length than Earth days.

Spirit's new wheel problem occurred this week during the rover's 779th Martian day.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Pentgon will weight in on Lockheed-Boeing Launch merge

Lockheed and Boeing, fierce rivals for rocket launches, agreed in May 2005 to create a 50-50 venture that would combine the production, engineering, test and launch operations for U.S. government use of Boeing Delta and Lockheed Atlas rockets, subject to government approval.

They said at the time the merger would save the government $100 million to $150 million annually and projected it would have closed by the end of last year.

"The concept of a ULA is something that we have looked at positively for a long time and there are a lot of details," Sega said. "We'll see what the respective teams have found with regard to assessment of those details."

Enceladus Mission ruled out?

The tantalizing Enceladus images were snapped by the Cassini spacecraft, an international project managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Cassini plans at least one more pass by Enceladus, in 2008, which could reveal further details of the moon's potential to harbor life - though not the presence of life itself.

The space agency hasn't ruled out extending that mission, said Andrew Dantzler, director of NASA's solar system division. But any future mission to Enceladus would come after a Europa trip, he said.

``I believe all these great missions that we want to do, we will do,'' he said. ``We just have to space them out.''

(from KFWB.com/AP)

Griffin on Space leadership

NASA chief Griffin spoke at Florida's Space day (HT NASA Watch here.)
Space, he said, is the "new enterprise" of the 21st century and will determine the world powers of the future.

Griffin said the space industry provides 35,000 jobs in Florida and 1.4 million tourists visit the Kennedy Space Center annually. Space-related activities are in all of Florida's 67 counties and contribute more than $4.5 billion to the state's economy, according to Gov. Jeb Bush's office.

Bush has asked lawmakers this year to approve funding of $100 million to attract world-class researchers and $55 million to bolster the space industry.

Griffin was joined by Kennedy Space Center Director Jim Kennedy at Florida Space Day in the Capitol.

Laika, the Space Dog

What ever happened to Laika, the space dog of Sputnik II? The People's cube has the scoop here.
Enter Sputnik 2. The Soviet press boasted about the 250-pound object equipped with a cabin, providing all the necessary life support for a dog named Laika. Well, almost. The Soviets admitted soon after the launch that the spacecraft would not return, meaning that the animal was doomed from the start. Years after Sputnik 2 burned up in the atmosphere, conflicting scenarios of Laika's death were circulating in the West.
Recently, several Russian sources revealed that Laika survived in orbit for four days and then died when the cabin overheated. The design of the cabin was derived from the nose sections of experimental ballistic missiles that carried dogs into the upper atmosphere in short and relatively slow-speed flights, ending in a parachute landing. ~

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Wow! Google Mars!

Google now has Mapping of Mars online here.
The Martian maps were made from images taken by NASA's orbiting Mars Odyssey and Mars Global Surveyor.

Google Mars doesn't provide driving directions, but users can see the planet in three different formats: The Martian elevation map is color-coded by altitude; the visible-imagery map shows the surface in black-and-white pictures; the infrared map indicates temperature, with cooler areas dark and warmer areas bright.

Users can also zoom in on any of the three maps to view geographical features such as mountains, canyons, dunes and craters. The maps also pinpoint the locations of unmanned space probes that have landed on Mars.

The up-to-date maps even include the locations of the NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which have been exploring opposite ends of the planet since 2004, said Phil Christensen, an Arizona State University planetary geologist who operates an infrared camera on the Mars Odyssey. Arizona State partnered with Google to create the maps.

(CNN Tech news here)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Stardust findings

The samples in the aerogel from Stardust have come back to earth and are being evaluated by the mission scientists. (from CNN here.)
Hundreds of microscopic specks of comet dust were collected and returned to Earth after the robotic Stardust spacecraft flew past the comet Wild 2 in 2004.
The specks of dust are described as glassy materials, crystals like olivine and various trace elements such as magnesium, peridot and sulfides.
The grains are pristine samples of material which scientists say is providing clues to the formation of the sun and nine planets.

About 150 scientists have been studying the dust since it arrived.
The samples were the first extraterrestrial material returned to Earth since a manned mission returned moon samples more than three decades ago.

When the comet dust particles were captured, they left tracks -- some shaped like carrots, others like turnips -- in the gel which was contained in a tennis racket-sized collector mitt.

Scientists spent hours using a computer-controlled needle to remove each particle.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Mars Navigation

MRO navigation (here) is on course:
The spacecraft's Optical Navigation Camera was used in February and March 2006 to demonstrate the use of pictures from a small camera for calculating precise location of a Mars-bound spacecraft by comparing the observed positions of Mars' two moons to their predicted positions relative to background stars. While this technique was not necessary for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's own navigation, the demonstration prepares the way for relying on it for navigating precise arrivals for future missions that land on Mars.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Remarks made by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

From SpaceRef.comhere:

"The decision to base the new Crew Exploration Vehicle and launch systems heavily upon the well understood and proven systems is the right decision. It provides the key ingredients for successful development that avoids the time, cost and risk associated with inventing new technologies, as well as ensuring a smoother transition that makes the best use of existing skills, expertise, and vehicle processing capabilities."

"The current plan is to terminate space shuttle flights in 2010. Our legislation initially prohibited a gap between the end of shuttle flights and the start of CEV operations."

"In the end, we compromised with a statement of policy that the US should maintain an uninterrupted capability for human space flight, and required NASA to inform the Congress, at least a year before the last scheduled shuttle flight, if a gap appeared likely and what steps they would take to fill it."

"In my view, the options they might have at that point, if necessary, could include extending shuttle flights beyond 2010, utilizing crew launch capabilities that might be developed by the private sector, or establishing agreements for the use of international partner crew launch capabilities."

"The NASA Authorization Act endorses and encourages the private sector involvement in space station crew and cargo support, and I am pleased to see NASA moving forward in its efforts to help spur that development."

"The Congress should--and will--continue to take the steps necessary to encourage and enable those developments."

"I believe we have an exciting and bright future in space exploration. We are on a course that will bring important new knowledge, and inspire new generations of scientists and explorers in ways only space exploration can do."

"All of you will have a role to play in this national undertaking and I look forward to working with you in accomplishing the best future we can for space exploration and the enhancement of life for all of us--on the Earth and in the universe that awaits."

MRO closing in on MARS

Today is the day we all have been waiting for. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter or MRO will insert itself into MARS orbit. NASA says they have a history of 65 per cent chance of obtaining orbit while they have had a 80 per cent rate of landing on MARS. Good luck!

If all goes well here is the sequence of events to obtain orbit:

MRO will approach the southern pole of Mars and then fire its thrusters at 1:25 Pacific Standard Time Friday, March 10. After 21 minutes, MRO will go behind the planet and mission scientists will lose contact with the spacecraft for 30 minutes. Six minutes after this loss of contact, the rockets should stop firing automatically, having decreased the speed of the spacecraft by 18 percent.

The spacecraft should swing back around Mars and re-establish Earth contact at 2:16 pm PST. Mission scientists will need an additional 30 minutes to determine whether the spacecraft has been captured by Mars gravity.

UPDATE: As of 2:16 PM PST MRO has achieved its burn and came out of occultation from Mars!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Closer to Mars!

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter zooms in on Mars and on Friday, March 10 MRO will insert into Mars orbit.

The sequence began Tuesday and will culminate with firing the craft's main thrusters for about 27 minutes on Friday -- a foot on the brakes to reduce velocity by about 20 percent as the spacecraft swings around Mars at about 5,000 meters per second (about 11,000 miles per hour). Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, are monitoring the events closely.

"We have been preparing for years for the critical events the spacecraft must execute on Friday," said JPL's Jim Graf, project manager. "By all indications, we're in great shape to succeed, but Mars has taught us never to get overconfident. Two of the last four orbiters NASA sent to Mars did not survive final approach."

Times are Eastern:
Arrival at Mars
Mar. 10
Pre-arrival briefing: 12 p.m.
Orbit insertion coverage:
3:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Post-arrival briefing: 7:30 p.m.
Link for NASA Live Coverage here.

March Storm and Luddies!

I'm so behind on the March Storm in DC this week lead by ProSpace and other Space groups here. I've been reading MarsBlog about his coverage on the Anti-Nuke groups that don't want War or Nukes in space. The problem with that is we have to defend our assets. What if we can't protect our satellites? What would happen if all the cells phones stopped working or we could not report massive hurricanes coming at the Gulf coast? Duh! I believe in Peace with strength, as a Reagan conservative. (And I think Star Wars is a good idea). Space Hawks they call us. Well, I call it Survival of the Strongest. Protect the peaceful people who don't want to take over the world either by Communism or Islamic fanatics. I love America, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution (as a Paper Document, not a Living one), the Founding Fathers (I don't care if they were bigoted slave owning White Males!) and our freedoms that I cherish. Defending Space will protect our way of life and the life’s of the Looney Liberal Luddies who complain the Space Hawks will take over and create a military BushHitlerNazi regime!

Big annoucement by NASA via Drudge

I haven't gotten all the facts yet, but possible water on Saturn's moon Enceladus here.
"As Cassini approached Saturn, we discovered the Saturnian system is filled with oxygen atoms. At the time we had no idea where the oxygen was coming from," said Candy Hansen, Cassini scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena. "Now we know Enceladus is spewing out water molecules, which break down into oxygen and hydrogen."

Scientists still have many questions. Why is Enceladus so active? Are other sites on Enceladus active? Might this activity have been continuous enough over the moon's history for life to have had a chance to take hold in the moon's interior?

Local news station here at News 13 will have the annoucement at 2PM est. I'll include the NASA link when I find it.

False Alarm! It seems Ch. 13 read the press release wrong updated by Drudge and local6 here. Life has not been found, but water has been found. That's what I got out of it.

From the Flame Trench at Florida Todayhere:
There were erroneous reports online and elsewhere throughout the morning today that NASA was going to report finding life on another planet or somewhere else in the solar system. That is not the case.

That said, the finding could have profound implications about life in the solar system.
End quote. Ok, no life just Water.

More about the Cassini-Huygens discovery here at JPL site.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Not by Fire but by Ice Via Robert Felix

For years we've been told that receding glaciers are evidence of global warming.
Now we’re being told that advancing glaciers are evidence of global warming.

What a bunch of double talk.

Advancing glaciers are NOT evidence of global warming, advancing glaciers are an
indicator that we're headed into an ice age. Glaciers advance toward the sea because
increased snowfall makes them heavier at the top and pushes them out at the sides.

It's truly simple. Any geology 101 course will tell you that the concept of glacier
mass balance suggests that a glacier is influenced by two processes: accumulation
and ablation. If accumulation exceeds ablation the glacier surges forward. If ablation
exceeds accumulation the glacier retreats.

Shuttle Tank arrives to the Cape

The external fuel tank arrives in a barge to KSC here.
Flight date is May 10th.

Sixteen pieces of foam fell off Discovery's external tank from the flight last year here.

It's the first time the space agency has put a number on the pieces of foam that snapped off during liftoff last year in the first flight since the Columbia disaster.

Engineers had hoped to prevent any threatening loss of foam and were disappointed when it happened again.

Media day to see the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) roll out is on March 7th here.
The tests are simulating airflow and temperature changes the CEV will have to experience in atmospheric flight, and they are among the first steps in the process to develop a new space-travel system to return humans to the Moon and support later missions to Mars.