Thursday, November 30, 2006

ISS failed to raise up

The Russians failed to raise the ISS up to a corrected orbit hight.
Russian engineers failed to raise the orbit of the international space station by a planned distance Thursday and Russian and U.S. officials were discussing whether it would affect the upcoming launch of the space shuttle Discovery.

Federal Space Agency spokesman Valery Lyndin said the engines on the Progress M-58 cargo ship docked at the station were supposed to fire for around 17 minutes and push the station around 4 miles higher. However they unexpectedly shut off early, pushing the station just 1 mile up.

This might effect the upcoming shuttle mission in December. Engineers are looking at it now at NASA

Another problem I thought we faced during the Millenum:

NASA wants Discovery back from its 12-day mission by New Year's Eve because shuttle computers are not designed to make the change from the 365th day of the old year to the first day of the new year while in flight.

The space agency has figured out a solution for the New Year's problem, but managers are reluctant to try it since it has not been thoroughly tested.

If the space shuttle is not back on the ground during the change into the new year, NASA officials want it docked to the space station and not flying.

Are the computers on the shuttle still operating on a pre-Win2000 operating system?

Night Launch Cleared for Shuttle on Dec. 7th

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) -- Preparations are on schedule for NASA's first nighttime space shuttle launch in four years as the space agency readies Discovery for a mission to the international space station, managers said Wednesday.

NASA plans to launch Discovery at 9:35 p.m. EST on December 7 for the third shuttle flight of the year and the fourth since the Columbia disaster killed seven astronauts in 2003.

The agency required the three launches after the Columbia accident to be in daylight so clear images could be taken of the shuttle's external fuel tank in case foam falls off. Foam breaking off the tank and striking Columbia's wing at liftoff caused the damage that led to the disaster.

"There were really no dissenting opinions on the night launch," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator.

The space agency needs to start launching shuttles at night to take advantage of more launch opportunities and finish space station construction by 2010, when the shuttle program ends.

Humans must leave Earth someday

Drudge has this by Steven Hawking on man leaving Earth to colonize space here:
"The long-term survival of the human race is at risk as long as it is confined to a single planet," he said. "Sooner or later, disasters such as an asteroid collision or nuclear war could wipe us all out. But once we spread out into space and establish independent colonies, our future should be safe.

"There isn't anywhere like the Earth in the solar system, so we would have to go to another star.

"If we used chemical fuel rockets like the Apollo mission to the moon, the journey to the nearest star would take 50,000 years. This is obviously far too long to be practical, so science fiction has developed the idea of warp drive, which takes you instantly to your destination. Unfortunately, this would violate the scientific law which says that nothing can travel faster than light.

"However, we can still within the law, by using matter/antimatter annihilation, and reach speeds just below the speed of light. With that, it would be possible to reach the next star in about six years, though it wouldn't seem so long for those on board."

The science fiction series Star Trek has used matter/antimatter annihilation as an explanation for the warp drive. But, in reality, he said that scientists believe that the flash of radiation produced when matter and antimatter are brought together and destroy one another could in fact one day be used to drive craft to close to the speed of light.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ring Sunspot

This was taken this morning in the Philippines by John Nassr. From here.

Single impact killed the Dinosaurs

Via Drudge here:
A new study provides compelling evidence that "one and only one impact" caused the mass extinction, according to a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher.

"The samples we found strongly support the single impact hypothesis," said Ken MacLeod, associate professor of geological sciences at MU and lead investigator of the study. "Our samples come from very complete, expanded sections without deposits related to large, direct effects of the impact – for example, landslides – that can shuffle the record, so we can resolve the sequence of events well. What we see is a unique layer composed of impact-related material precisely at the level of the disappearance of many species of marine plankton that were contemporaries of the youngest dinosaurs. We do not find any sedimentological or geochemical evidence for additional impacts above or below this level, as proposed in multiple impact scenarios."

MacLeod and his co-investigators studied sediment recovered from the Demerara Rise in the Atlantic Ocean northeast of South America, about 4,500 km (approximately 2,800 miles) from the impact site on the Yucatan Peninsula. Sites closer to and farther from the impact site have been studied, but few intermediary sites such as this have been explored.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mars Global Surveyor Lost?

- NASA's best effort to find a missing Mars space probe failed Monday night, as scientists at the space agency began to lose hope for the 10-year-old planet-mapping workhorse.

After more than two weeks of silence from the Mars Global Surveyor, NASA will make other tries, but scientists began to sound resigned Tuesday.

"We may have lost a dear old friend and teacher," Michael Meyer, the lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program said in a news conference.

The $154 million surveyor, which finished its work eight years ago, is the oldest of six different active space probes on or circling the red planet.

Among its accomplishments are its more than 240,000 pictures of the red planet, offering the best big-picture view of the red planet.

"Every good thing comes to an end at some point," said Arizona State University scientist Phil Christensen. "It certainly in my mind greatly exceeded our wildest expectations of what to hope for. It revolutionized what we were thinking about Mars."

On Monday night, NASA had hoped to catch a glimpse of the surveyor from the camera on the new Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. But the orbiter failed to spot it.

Now NASA will try an even less likely search effort. Engineers will send a signal to the silent spacecraft, asking it to turn on a beacon on one of the two Mars rovers below. If the rover beacon turns on, NASA could figure out where the lost Mars Surveyor is, said project manager Tom Thorpe.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Boxer to have hearings on Global Warming

How charming our own Senator is to have hearings on Global Warming. Is she going to call in William Gray and Max Mayfield on the carpet? (HT Drudge)
Automakers and manufacturers, beware: There's a new environmental policy boss in town, she scowls a lot, and two of her favorite phrases are "global warming" and "extensive hearings."

The Democrats' coming takeover of Congress is expected to feel pressure for policy change on a number of fronts, from Iraq to taxes, but the starkest change may come at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, when Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., will surrender the gavel to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Her appointment was announced Tuesday, but won't take effect until January.

Inhofe rejects a wide scientific consensus that human use of fossil fuels is largely responsible for catastrophic climate change, calling it "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." He's accused environmental activists of exploiting people's fears to raise money. And he's blocked legislation aimed at curbing global warming.

Boxer, in contrast, is a fiercely liberal environmental activist. She has railed against Inhofe, crusaded for cleaner drinking water and led wilderness protection efforts in her home state and for Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Her likely counterparts in the House of Representatives - Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., incoming chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., of the Resources Committee - are less sympathetic to environmentalists. Dingell's constituents include the auto industry, and Rahall's include the coal industry. Then too, of course, George W. Bush remains president, and he's not exactly a global-warming crusader, either.

But Boxer said Tuesday that starting in January, her priority will be to begin "a very long process of extensive hearings" on global warming.

"I think there ought to be a global-warming bill that looks at all the contributors to carbon-dioxide emissions," she said. She cited California's legislation requiring automakers to reduce emissions as "an excellent role model."

Boxer also wants to boost the cleanup of Superfund toxic-waste sites by reinstating "polluter pays" fines, which lapsed under the Bush administration, and increase oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Inhofe couldn't be reached for comment; Boxer said he'd called to wish her well.

Melinda Pierce, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club, cheered the coming change, saying Inhofe had been bad for the environment and that Boxer is an activist hero. But with a bare 51-49 Democrat majority in the next Senate and Bush in the White House, Pierce said, "We have no illusions that there's going to be some comprehensive global-warming bill signed by the president." Instead, she said, Boxer will likely "set an agenda and make modest gains for a time in 2009 when we have a new president."

Hank Cox of the National Association of Manufacturers said his group "will certainly have our door open," although he said Boxer "does represent a tougher stand on environmental issues than we've had in the past, and we can potentially see where there's going to be more vigorous debate."

"If you're going to make these assumptions about what is causing global warming, the whole world needs to participate together," Cox said. "The Chinese are opening a new coal-fired power plant every week, and within a few years they will pass us in terms of carbon-dioxide emissions. For the U.S. to impose severe, expensive economic restraints on our own economy, while the Chinese ignore it, would not have any appreciable impact on total global emissions."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Iran tests missiles

Iran test-fired dozens of missiles, including the Shahab-3 that can reach Israel, in military maneuvers Thursday that it said were aimed at putting a stop to the role of world powers in the Persian Gulf region.

The show of strength came as Iran remains locked in dispute with the West over its nuclear program, which Washington says is geared to producing atomic weapons but Tehran says is only for generating electricity. The maneuvers came three days after U.S.-led warships finished naval exercises in the Gulf that Iran branded as "adventurist."

Discovery rolled out to VAB


NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery completed one milestone and is nearing
another as workers prepare the orbiter for a December launch to the
International Space Station.

On Tuesday night, drivers moved Discovery from the shuttle processing
facility to the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space
Center in Florida. Discovery, perched on top of the giant, 76-wheel
orbiter transporter system, began moving out of the facility at 9:23
p.m. EST.

In the assembly building, technicians attached Discovery to its
propulsion elements, an external fuel tank and twin solid rocket
boosters. Following those operations, final integration, preparations
and closeouts began in preparation for flight.

Discovery's next milestone is the 4.2-mile trip to Launch Pad 39B in
preparation for its mission, designated STS-116. During the 11-day
mission, the shuttle's seven astronauts will rewire the station to
bring online new power supplies generated by solar arrays installed
in September.

Article from CNN here.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Hubble will be extended to 2013

Good news about the Hubble telescope! NASA will service the Hubble with the Shuttle in 2008.
NASA said Tuesday it will launch a final space shuttle mission to keep the aging, trailblazing Hubble Space Telescope in orbit and operational. The decision, announced by the chief of the US space agency, Michael Griffin, followed a review of safety concerns and appeals from the scientific community to extend the life of the Hubble. Without a repair mission, which will likely be carried out in 2008, the telescope would shut down in 2009 or even earlier.

Since it was launched into orbit 16 years ago, the telescope has helped astrophysicists peer deep into the universe free of the distortions from the Earth's atmosphere.

Orbiting 575 kilometers (360 miles) above the Earth, the Hubble has enabled scientists to better measure the age and origins of the universe, observe distant supernovas, and identify and study bodies in and outside the solar system.

In 2004, it conveyed pictures of the most distant parts of the universe ever observed by visible light, "the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever achieved by humankind," said the Space Telescope Science Institute.

NASA had scheduled a mission for Hubble in 2003, but scrapped it after the Columbia shuttle disintegrated while returning to Earth. The accident raised serious safety questions for the NASA space program, particularly with the shuttle's heat shield. Tuesday's announcement comes after two of the last three shuttle missions were judged a success.

Griffin said the decision to go ahead was taken after a painstaking review of safety issues.

"We're not going to risk a crew in order to do a Hubble mission," he told staff at Goddard Space Center in Maryland outside of Washington.

In 2003 it was thought too dangerous a mission. But with the saftey issues worked out a mission is possible. I'm sure the science community will appeciate Hubble's extention to explore the heavens. Also, it is good news the last three Shuttle missions "were judged a success!" NASA worked the problems out with the tank foam and finish building the ISS.

Here is the crew slated for the mission:

Veteran astronaut Scott D. Altman will command the final space
shuttle mission to Hubble. Navy Reserve Capt. Gregory C. Johnson will
serve as pilot. Mission specialists include veteran spacewalkers John
M. Grunsfeld and Michael J. Massimino and first-time space fliers
Andrew J. Feustel, Michael T. Good and K. Megan McArthur.