Monday, December 31, 2007

Candidates space policies

From here.

My concern is NASA should go beyond the low orbit and explore space and the planets. And private enterprise be more involved in the launching of rockets and satellites. Senator Clinton wants NASA to be the Global Warming Climate Change agency. Governor Romney wants to stay with President Bush's Moon-Mars policy. I'll have to do my reading this New Year's on each candidate's Space Policy.
Update: Space Review article is here:
The one candidate whose positions on space have received the most attention—and scrutiny—has been Sen. Hillary Clinton. That attention is based in part on her standing as one of the front runners in the Democratic race, but also because she is the one candidate, Democratic or Republican, who has provided any sort of detailed position on what she would do in space policy if elected. Even Dave Weldon, a Republican Congressman from Florida, said earlier this month, “The best person with a space policy—actually, the only candidate with any kind of substantial space policy on their Web site—is Hillary.”

However, Senator Clinton is more short term thinking than the Vision Bush proposed in 2004:
Another question about Clinton’s policy is her support for the Vision for Space Exploration. Her policy does mention support for “later human missions” beyond the completion of the International Space Station, but does not explicitly endorse the goals laid out nearly four years ago by President Bush to return humans to the Moon by 2020 and, later, send humans to Mars. In a New York Times article the day after her speech, Clinton indicated that such goals would be set aside in favor of restoring funding for aeronautics and space policy. Such exploration, she told the Times, “excites people,” but “I am more focused on nearer-term goals I think are achievable.”

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Star Trails

These are star trails--slow, graceful arcs traced by the stars as Earth spins on its axis. "A full 180° rotation of the circumpolar stars can be obtained only at this time of year when the astronomical night lasts more than 12 hours," says photographer Lorenzo Comolli. "I took this all-night picture on Dec. 28-29 using my Canon 350D on a tripod in light polluted Tradate, Italy."

The stubby arc near the center of the swirl is Polaris, also known as "the North Star" because Earth's north pole points almost directly at it. Polaris may be the most famous star in the heavens--but fame is fleeting! Earth's spin axis is precessing and in 10,000 years or so white-hot Vega (six times brighter than Polaris) will take over as North Star. Star trail photos will look even prettier then, with an intense bright dot illuminating the core of the starry whirlpool.

New Year's Comet

Comet Tuttle From the Photo archive at Comet Tuttle @ SpaceWeather here.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Shuttle launch will be delayed again

Flame Trench has full converge of the fuel sensors problem with Atlantis's external fuel tank.
After removing foam protection on Friday, technicians were scheduled to remove a suspect connector from Atlantis' external tank today.

The failed connector, which scrubbed launches on Dec. 6 and 9, will be sent away for testing. It provides readings from redundant low-fuel sensors in the bottom of the external tank and instruments that would shut down the shuttle's main engines before the turbopumps ran dry and flew apart.

The Connector has been removed and sent in to be tested. NASA has not announced another launch date yet.

Spirit's Winter Position

Crossing the Winter Finish Line ... for Now

Human explorers would be hard pressed to show more persistence than NASA's Mars rover Spirit. After weeks of careful driving with a broken front wheel, Spirit finally made it to a north-facing slope of "Home Plate."

The rover gradually descended over the north edge to get into position, as shown here, tilting its solar panels 13 degrees toward the sinking winter Sun to maximize power. Rover drivers plan to continue nudging Spirit forward, increasing the tilt, to track the Sun as it moves lower in the northern sky.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Hazard avoidance camera

JPL's float in Rose Parade

JPL will celebrate the 50 years in space with a float in the Rose Parade, January 1, 2008.
"In January 2008 we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Explorer 1, the first American satellite, which was built at JPL.? This is a historic milestone not only for the Jet Propulsion?Laboratory, Caltech and Pasadena, but for the country," said Charles Elachi, director of?JPL. "I can think of nothing better than kicking off the celebration?with a float in the ultimate New Year's pageant, the Rose Parade." JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

More at here.

UPDATE 1/6/08: An article about the JPL float here at About

Opportunities mission at Victoria Crater

Asteroid to hit Mars?

On January 30, 2008 an asteroid will pass Mars very close. Will it effect the Mars rovers if it hits the planet?
The chance that a rogue mini-world — asteroid 2007 WD5 — will smack into Mars on January 30th has increased from 1.3 percent to 3.9 percent.

That’s the new estimation from officials at the Near Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), stemming from several sky watching teams in Alaska, New Mexico, and in Arizona.
Read more at Live Science here.
The pre-discovery observations were located by Andy Puckett, a recent Ph.D. from the University of Chicago who has since moved to the University of Alaska Anchorage. Dr. Puckett located the observations in the archive of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey II, which contains extensive repeat coverage of 300 square degrees along the sky's celestial equator. The observations were taken using a 2.5 meter aperture telescope at the Apache Point Observatory near Cloudcroft, New Mexico. For the recent orbit refinement, these pre-discovery observations on November 8 were added to the existing observations provided by the Catalina Sky Survey and Spacewatch observatories (both near Tucson AZ) as well as New Mexico Tech's Magdalena Ridge Observatory.

More from NEO JPL page here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Apollo 8 Christmas eve broadcast

From NASA here.
William Anders:

"For all the people on Earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you".

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness."

Jim Lovell:

"And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day."

Frank Borman:

"And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good."

Borman then added, "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you - all of you on the good Earth."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mars will be a Christmas Star!

HT from Mars Blog.
Mars is retrograding (moving westward) through the stars of Gemini and will cross over into Taurus on Dec. 30. It will come closest to the Earth on the night of Dec. 18 (around 6:46 p.m. EST). The planet is then 54,783,381 miles (88,165,305 kilometers) from Earth. It is at opposition – exactly opposite from the sun, with Earth in the middle – six days later, on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.

It will then gleam at magnitude -1.6, and through Jan. 2, 2008, will outshine Sirius, the brightest star.

The night that Mars will probably attract the most attention, from even those who don't normally look up at the sky, will be on the night before Christmas Eve: Sunday, Dec. 23. That will be the night of a full moon, and Mars will serve as a companion to it all through that night. In fact, it will result in an exceptionally close approach between the two across much of the United States, while for parts of the Pacific Northwest, southern and western Canada and Europe, the moon will actually occult (hide) Mars.

From here.

January 10 launch

The shuttle Atlantis launch will be rescheduled for January 10. It will not delay the next flight of Endeavour on February 14Th.
From Flame Trench here:
NASA could still pick up its original 2008 schedule after launching Atlantis on Jan. 10. A five-week turnaround between the launches of Atlantis and Endeavour would make that possible.

"If we launched on the 10th (of January), it does not affect the ability to launch on Feb. 14," said NASA spokesman Kyle Herring.

A Valentine's Day launch of Endeavour will return NASA to the schedule the agency proposed to complete the space station before the shuttle program ends in 2010.

However, if Atlantis' launch is delayed until Jan. 13 or 14, that would force a day for day slip in Endeavour's Valentine's Day mission. Laboratory modules will be delivered on both missions to the International Space Station.

"All of that still fits," said Herring.