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January 6th, 2004, 03:10 PM
The first color images from Spirit:



Large scale, high resolution picture here: http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/spirit/20040106a/PIA04996.jpg

January 6th, 2004, 03:34 PM
Looks ripe for development. I'll call Trump.

January 6th, 2004, 03:55 PM
Wait a minute!
How do we know this is Mars?

It looks like my backyard...when I had a back yard.
Now you know why I no longer have a back yard.

January 6th, 2004, 04:28 PM
Wait a minute!
How do we know this is Mars?

It looks like my backyard...when I had a back yard.
Now you know why I no longer have a back yard.

How did you get the pretty pink sky effect? Toxic waster? ;)

January 6th, 2004, 04:32 PM
Yes, that xeriscape can be a bitch.

Sort of looks like Arizona, with an LA sky.

TLOZ Link5
January 6th, 2004, 06:44 PM
Now let's bring on the Martian colonies!

January 6th, 2004, 07:18 PM
I reeeeeeally want that to happen. I made a small demo ship out of legos long ago, with a habitable lander, a propulsion/fuel module, a habitation module, and something else I forgot.

Space is the frontier I most wish to explore. Mars should be just an initial step. Let's go for advanced propulsion methods... ion thrusters are in use but aren't near fast enough, we need either powerful magnets or a way of warping space (the former much more feasible...).

A first step to slightly faster long range journeys is the solar sail. The Planetary Society hopes to launch within a few months, though they've been delayed more than a year. Their suborbital test went icky but they identified the problems and fixed them. While in orbit, the sail (Cosmos 1) will be the brightest thing in the sky save the moon.

TLOZ Link5
January 7th, 2004, 09:16 PM
Of course, the terraforming comes first.

I remember this one sci-fi movie whose name escapes me, about how industrial pollution on Earth was really a terraforming project by aliens. Creepy.

January 7th, 2004, 09:27 PM
I saw that one too, with the aliens and their backwards legs and freaky stuff..

Terraforming isn't necessary to begin a colony. Pressurized and sealed structures would be fine for starters.

January 8th, 2004, 12:09 PM
They need to solve the problems with the rapid deterioration of the human body away from Earth gravity for long periods. That and the extreme radiation they would be exposed to on Mars seem to be the biggest hurdles, assuming that the missions themselves go flawless. To date, two-thirds of all Mars missions have failed. Something that would help greatly would be a breakthrough with the speed of long distance space travel. They have good ideas to counter all these problems though no concrete solutions, and not enough funding for the needed testing. Well, according to the Science Channel anyways.

January 8th, 2004, 02:33 PM
Another "habitable" place in the solar system is Titan (http://www.pbs.org/lifebeyondearth/alone/titan.html), which is a little larger than Mars and has a dense atmosphere.

There may be a reality that technology won't overcome, unless there exists in nature some sort of space warp that can be exploited, that there will never be a Solar System Global village. While communication is instantaneous across the world, a "Hello" to Titan may always have to wait at least 3 hours for a "Yes, who is it?"

January 8th, 2004, 03:30 PM
Yes, the distances are mind boggling.
I like that website, though I think I've found conflicting data:

Titan is Saturn's largest satellite. At more than 5,150 kilometers in diameter, this moon is about the size of Mars and Mercury combined.

I think it should say Titan's size is midway between Mars and Mercury, (as if you combined the two).


Distance Radius Mass
Name Orbits (000 km) (km) (kg)
--------- ------- -------- ------- -------
Sun 697000 1.99e30
Jupiter Sun 778000 71492 1.90e27
Saturn Sun 1429000 60268 5.69e26
Uranus Sun 2870990 25559 8.69e25 *
Neptune Sun 4504300 24764 1.02e26 *
Earth Sun 149600 6378 5.98e24
Venus Sun 108200 6052 4.87e24
Mars Sun 227940 3398 6.42e23
Ganymede Jupiter 1070 2631 1.48e23 +
Titan Saturn 1222 2575 1.35e23 +
Mercury Sun 57910 2439 3.30e23 +
Callisto Jupiter 1883 2400 1.08e23
Io Jupiter 422 1815 8.93e22
Moon Earth 384 1738 7.35e22
Europa Jupiter 671 1569 4.80e22
Triton Neptune 355 1353 2.14e22
Pluto Sun 5913520 1160 1.32e22

*Note: Neptune is slightly denser than Uranus.
+Note: Mercury is much denser than Ganymede and Titan.

This composite shows Earth and the remaining 11 large solar system objects at a scale of 100 km/pixel.


Titan is the orange ball down and to the right of Earth.
That blue image of Venus, next to Earth, is false color.
This is what it looks like:

And according to this website:

The Best Prospects for Life
Name Why
--------- -------
Mars most Earth-like; more so in the past; ALH84001
Europa may have liquid water
Enceladus may have liquid water
Titan complex chemistry and liquids likely
Io complex chemistry, warmer than most
Jupiter long shot: warm, plenty of organic material

"all of this remains very speculative. None of these prospects are really very good. Good arguments can be made why life (at least life as we know it) cannot exist on any of these bodies."

TLOZ Link5
January 8th, 2004, 04:19 PM
Jupiter is a gas giant, though. You can't exactly land on it, though an orbital space station of some sort would work.

January 8th, 2004, 04:43 PM
*thinks of Jupiter Station from ST: TNG and VOY*

January 8th, 2004, 04:56 PM
Read the Red, Blue and Green mars books from Kim Stanley Robertson.

VERY good trilogy there. Deals more with politics and HR than science, but makes the science BELIEVABLE.

January 9th, 2004, 01:00 AM
January 9, 2004

Bush to Announce Ventures to Mars and the Moon, Officials Say


President Bush will make a speech next week outlining a major space initiative, the White House said last night.

Administration officials said they expected that Mr. Bush would propose a research and development program with the aim of establishing a base on the moon, as a prelude to a longer-term goal of sending humans to Mars.

Aboard Air Force One en route to Washington, the president's press secretary, Scott McClellan, told reporters, "The president directed his administration to do a comprehensive review of our space policy, including our priorities and the future of the program, and the president will have more to say on it next week."

But another administration official cautioned that the proposal could be broad and open-ended, more in the nature of "a mission statement" rather than a detailed road map and schedule.

Still, the announcement, combined with Mr. Bush's call this week to revamp laws regarding immigration, would signal the second major policy initiative put forward by the White House at the beginning of an election year. Both new policy directives would allow the president to be portrayed as an inspirational leader whose vision goes beyond terrorism and tax cuts.

They also would have the added political benefit of diverting attention from the Democratic presidential candidates trudging through the retail politics of the Iowa caucuses.

NASA officials have said publicly since late summer that a group of senior policy advisers, convened by the White House, was meeting to establish new goals for the agency. The report on the Feb. 1 breakup of the space shuttle Columbia, which killed seven astronauts, said one of NASA's problems was the lack of a long-term, inspiring goal and called for a public debate on the issue. But that debate has largely waited for the White House, which has been distracted by the war in Iraq.

The report was released in late August, and in the months since, several news reports have appeared asserting that the White House was preparing to announce a return to the moon as a steppingstone to Mars. Some of these suggested that the announcement would come when the president attended a commemoration of the centennial of powered flight, in Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, but the president made no policy statement there.

In exhorting the country to undertake an ambitious space program, Mr. Bush would follow the example of at least two presidents. In 1961, John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to send a man to the moon by the end of the decade. And in 1989, Mr. Bush's father, George Bush, proposed establishing a base on the Moon, sending an expedition to Mars and beginning "the permanent settlement of space."

But while President Kennedy's challenge resulted in an eight-year sprint to the moon, the elder President Bush's proposal went nowhere. By the time the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated in February, NASA had made no significant progress on how it would return to the moon, much less laying the groundwork for the far more complex question of developing a space ship with sufficient propulsion and speed to take people to Mars.

The NASA administrator, Sean O'Keefe, has spoken publicly in some detail about the problems of a manned landing on Mars, saying the nation would have to develop new methods of propulsion and electricity generation in space and a way to protect the astronauts from large radiation doses.

The problems are related; the radiation dose is proportional to the length of the round trip, which depends in part on propulsion, and the propulsion could be driven by electricity.

The questions Mr. O'Keefe raised are integral to another nagging problem: what should replace the shuttle? There are three surviving shuttles, but the program has been operating for 20 years, and the design is even older. NASA has begun preliminary design work on a new system to carry astronauts to low earth orbit, to reach the International Space Station and presumably achieve other goals as well, but its purpose is not yet clear.

The issue is urgent because any replacement would probably be a decade away, by which time the shuttles, if they are still flying, would be about 30 years old, experts say.

The administration, however, is facing competing priorities, experts say. One question, as noted by the chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in August, is how much the nation can commit to spending, at a time of record budget deficits.

"This stuff is not cheap," said the chairman, Harold W. Gehman Jr., a retired admiral.

John Logsdon, the director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, who was a member of Admiral Gehman's investigative board, said yesterday evening that the report had "led the administration to say we need to articulate a vision for the program and give a sense of where we're going and why."

Aides on Capitol Hill said they were uncertain about precisely what mission the president would call for, although many analysts have argued that a simple return to the moon, which astronauts first visited almost 35 years ago, would not be enough.

One expert on NASA management, Harold E. McCurdy of American University, said that if, in fact, the plan was to go to the moon, the overall goal would be broader.

"The ultimate purpose of going back to the moon is not to go the moon," Mr. McCurdy said. "It's to go to Mars and explore the inner solar system. It's like climbing Mount Rainier in preparation for an ascent of Mount Everest."

But several space experts said yesterday evening that the announcement might be in the nature of a long-term goal and research program. This would avoid any huge expenditure in the near term, unlike, for example, the drive in the 1960's to reach the moon the first time.

If the announcement comes next week, it will probably occur as NASA's new Mars lander continues to send back stunning photos and other information.

Congressional aides also said they expected the announcement to detail a reorganization of the nation's space effort, to bring the military and civilian sides closer together to make better use of limited resources.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

January 9th, 2004, 11:17 PM
January 10, 2004

For Space Glory, Reach for the Stars, Experts Say


Disasters big and small have struck the federal space establishment with alarming regularity of late: satellites have failed, space shuttles have blown up, astronauts have died.

NASA has captivated the public this week with dazzling pictures from the rover it just landed on Mars. But closer to Earth, at the International Space Station, air is slowly leaking and no one knows why. The Pentagon, after spending billions, is having trouble making a booster rocket for the antimissile system it is trying to build. A new generation of spy satellites is behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. Landsat 7, a federal satellite that observes the Earth, is sending back fuzzy pictures and acting like a malfunctioning video camera.

All of these troubles raise the question of whether the nation has the technical muscle to achieve President Bush's vision of setting up a human base on the moon and sending Americans to Mars, a plan he is expected to announce next week.

"NASA has gotten obese and encumbered," said Rick N. Tumlinson, a founder of the Space Frontier Foundation, a private group in Nyack, N.Y., that advocates bold exploration. "It's like a former Olympic athlete eating potato chips and drinking beer while watching reruns of past glories."

The consensus of experts is that NASA and the nation's wider space community are damaged in vital areas and now clearly unable to do anything ambitious.

But the space program could soar again, they said, even with modest funding increases — if it is revitalized by bold leadership and tough political calls, like finding a graceful way to end the shuttle program, which has already outlasted its intended life span and is a huge drain on NASA's resources.

If done right, they said, the initiative could end the string of failures and replace them with new achievements.

"This is a way of fixing a lot of that by providing a focus that will draw good people back into the space program," Dr. John M. Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, said. "The current problems are a result of a lack of focus."

Any return to the moon, let alone a much more ambitious and dangerous foray to Mars, would require new generations of advanced rockets, engines, air and food supplies, communications gear and shields to protect humans from blasts of solar radiation.

But Jerry Grey, policy director of the American Institute of Astronautics and Aeronautics, a professional group of aerospace engineers based in Washington, said the technical woes were not insurmountable or uniform. He noted that the Spirit robot that recently landed on Mars was apparently working flawlessly as it readied to explore the planet.

"The technical establishment is not fine," he said. "There are a lot of things wrong with it. But it's not about to fall apart. And an initiative like what President Bush appears to be ready to announce would open up a lot of opportunities."

Mr. Tumlinson of the Space Frontier Foundation said no big budget increases would be needed for President Bush's plan but that NASA would have to be completely restructured, with unneeded centers shut down and new divisions set up to mobilize new talent.

"We're at our best when we're given our biggest challenges," he said. "When the challenges are mediocre, when they don't call on us to reach beyond ourselves, we have a tendency to perform in a mediocre fashion."

Such work, Mr. Tumlinson added, now characterized the space shuttles, which are grounded, and the space station, which is down to two crew members from three and leaking air. "We have to call on NASA to do something beyond itself," he said.

Experts who have consulted in the decision-making process said Mr. Bush's plan may call for retiring the shuttles and ending station work sometime early next decade as the nation begins a new round of moon landings.

But the political handiwork needed just to end the shuttle program would be significant, requiring major assaults on entrenched interests: When up and running, the spaceport in Florida employs some 14,000 people and each year pumps $1.4 billion into the state's economy.

Analysts said the current slump began after the cold war when the federal government cut back on its enormous investments in space technology. At the same time, scientific research in the nation's private sector took off, drawing into computers and medicine many of the best students who otherwise might have gone to NASA or the space programs of other federal agencies, including the Defense Department.

This loss of talent was one of the factors behind the Columbia space shuttle disaster last year, which killed seven astronauts, according to the panel that investigated the accident. It singled out a "broken safety culture" at NASA that played down potential problems and was too influenced by the need to meet flight schedules. It found that decision making was flawed, safety procedures incomplete and communications poor.

Similar problems have been identified in the military's space programs. Last May in a thick report, a high-level advisory panel to the Pentagon, the Defense Science Board, said those efforts were suffering from major cost increases and schedule delays, with "a devastating effect on program success."

It said the problems grew out of bureaucratic failings in which estimates had grown unrealistic and undisciplined, and that good managers were so scarce that the government's abilities to lead and manage acquisition programs "have seriously eroded."

Despite wide atrophy and decay, many experts said that bold leadership could revitalize the nation's space establishment.

Dr. Bruce C. Murray, the former director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who is now at the California Institute of Technology, said the plan that Mr. Bush is expected to announce could work if clear and properly structured.

An important part of the initiative, he said, should be for the human spaceflight program to shed its historic aversion to computers and robotic technology and to integrate them into the heart of the new work, cutting costs and empowering bold technologies for opening new frontiers.

"On earth, humans and computers are developing an enormous symbiosis," Dr. Murray noted. "But none of that is happening on the human side of spaceflight. The future belongs to that symbiosis. And we of all nations have the maximum capability to take advantage of this evolving symbiosis, and we of all nations have not."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

January 12th, 2004, 08:16 AM
Bush to Announce Ventures to Mars and the Moon, Officials Say
Expanding the search for WMD.

January 15th, 2004, 08:20 AM
Cars on Mars! (http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/spirit_rolling_040115.html)

NASA (http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/m2k4/index1.html)

January 17th, 2004, 09:42 AM
Closer to home...

January 17, 2004

NASA Cancels Trip to Supply Hubble, Sealing Early Doom


Savor those cosmic postcards while you can. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration decreed an early death yesterday to one of its flagship missions and most celebrated successes, the Hubble Space Telescope.

In a midday meeting at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., two days after President Bush ordered NASA to redirect its resources toward human exploration of the Moon and Mars, the agency's administrator, Sean O'Keefe, told the managers of the space telescope that there would be no more shuttle visits to maintain it.

A visit by astronauts to install a couple of the telescope's scientific instruments and replace the gyroscopes and batteries had been planned for next year. Without any more visits, the telescope, the crown jewel of astronomy for 10 years, will probably die in orbit sometime in 2007, depending on when its batteries or gyroscopes fail for good.

"It could die tomorrow, it could last to 2011," said Dr. Steven Beckwith, director of the Space Telescope Institute on the Johns Hopkins University campus in Baltimore. Dr. Beckwith said he and his colleagues were devastated.

At a news conference last night, Dr. John M. Grunsfeld, the agency's chief scientist and an astronaut who has been to the Hubble two times, called the the telescope the "best marriage of human spaceflight and science."

"It is a sad day that we have to announce this," Dr. Grunsfeld added.

As the news flashed around the world by e-mail, other astronomers joined the Hubble team in their shock. Dr. David N. Spergel, an astronomer at Princeton and a member of a committee that advises NASA on space science, called it a "double whammy" for astronomy. Not only was a telescope being lost, but $200 million worth of instruments that had been built to be added in the later shuttle mission will also be left on the ground, Dr. Spergel said.

Dr. Garth Illingworth, an astronomer at the University of California at Santa Cruz who is also on the advisory committee, said, "I think this is a mistake," noting that the Hubble was still doing work at the forefront of science.

Dr. Tod Lauer, of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories in Tucson, said, "This is a pretty nasty turn of events, coming immediately on the heels of `W's' endorsement of space exploration."

The demise of the Hubble will leave astronomers with no foreseeable prospect of a telescope in space operating primarily at visible wavelengths. The announcement also precludes hopes that astronomers had of using the Hubble in tandem with the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launching in 2011 and which is being designed for infrared wavelengths, to study galaxies at the far reaches of time.

Ground-based telescopes like the 10-meter-diameter Kecks on Mauna Kea are growing more powerful, and the use of adaptive optics to tune out the blurring effects of the atmosphere lets them approach the resolution of the Hubble in limited cases. But they are blinded by the atmosphere to ultraviolet and infrared light.

Floating above the murky atmosphere of Earth, the Hubble, launched in 1990, has had the ability to see into the depths of space and time with unprecedented clarity, glimpsing galaxies that were under construction when the universe was half its present age and helping cosmologists chart how the mysterious "dark energy" has gradually taken over the expansion of the universe.

Periodic service calls by shuttle astronauts repaired a series of early problems and have continually refurbished the telescope and kept it at the fore of cosmic research. The mission next year would have left the telescope in good shape to continue working through the end of the decade, when NASA plans to bring it down. But the service missions are expensive, more than $500 million each.

More important, NASA officials say, after the Columbia catastrophe a year ago, the missions are also considered dangerous. The shuttles do not carry enough fuel to reach the space station in case of trouble.

In its report on the shuttle disaster last summer, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board recommended that there be a way to inspect and repair the shuttle's heat shields, which were damaged after the Columbia lifted off. That is easily conducted if the craft is at the space station, but not at the Hubble.

In his remarks to the astronomers on Friday, according to those present, Mr. O'Keefe referred to that recommendation and said it would be too difficult to develop that ability for a single trip to the telescope.

Given enough time, NASA might have developed the tools to do it, Dr. Grunsfeld said, but the decision to retire the shuttles in 2010 foreclosed that possibility.

"Cost was not an issue," he said.

Many astronomers, however, noting that the decision came on the heels of Mr. Bush's directive to NASA to reallocate $11 billion of its resources over the next five years into returning people to the Moon, said money was doubtless also a consideration.

Presenting the decision as a safety-related issue, the astronomers said, lessened the odds that it would be challenged, by, say NASA's Congressional overseers.

NASA is not completely off the hook as far as the Hubble is concerned. The agency is committed to bringing it back to Earth safely after its useful life ends. Until the Columbia accident, NASA had planned to retrieve the telescope with a shuttle and put it in the Smithsonian. Now the plan is to build a robotic rocket that would go up, attach itself to the telescope and fire its engine to brake Hubble out of orbit and drop it in the ocean.

Paradoxically, Dr. Spergel said, the cost of developing such a rocket, estimated at $300 million or more, would come out of the NASA astronomy budget. It is, he said, another double whammy.

One mission gets canceled, he said, and "what's our next mission, deorbit the telescope?"

For now, of course, the Hubble lives. Dr. Beckwith said: "We at the institute are devastated by the potential loss of Hubble. But we will do our absolute best to make the final years of its life the most glorious science you've ever seen."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

January 19th, 2004, 09:13 AM
Getting to Mars (http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101040126/pop/)

January 19th, 2004, 11:59 AM
Every time they service the Hubble Telescope they update it with the latest technology and always get MUCH better results - Hubble's greatest achievements were to come from its final years. Too bad.

January 22nd, 2004, 02:52 PM
NASA unable to communicate with Mars rover

CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/01/22/spirit.contact/index.html)

Mars Rover Stops Sending Intelligible Data Back to Earth

New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/22/international/22CND-MARS.html?hp)

:!: :!: :!:

January 23rd, 2004, 11:53 AM
Mars Rover sending limited data again (http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/01/23/spirit.contact/index.html)

NASA (http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/newsroom/pressreleases/20040123b.html)

Second Rover, Opportunity, scheduled to land on Martian equator this weekend (http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2004/22jan_meridianiplanum.htm)

January 24th, 2004, 10:42 AM
January 24, 2004

Mars Rover Communicates Again, but From Sickbed


PASADENA, Calif., Jan. 23 — The Mars rover Spirit called home on Friday morning, re-establishing contact after two days of garbled transmissions. But mission controllers said that they were still confused by its brief messages and inconsistent behavior and that it would be some time before the problem could be diagnosed and repaired, if ever.

"I think many days, perhaps a couple of weeks, even under the best of circumstances," Peter Theisinger, project manager for the mission, said at a news conference at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory here.

But Mr. Theisinger added that it was too soon to give up hope, saying, "We've got a long way to go here with the patient in intensive care."

Talking with journalists later, Edward J. Weiler, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's associate administrator for space science, compared the problem to a jigsaw puzzle. "We're starting to get some of the perimeter pieces," Mr. Weiler said.

The troubles with the rover are likely to lead mission controllers to take extra caution in deploying Opportunity, a robotic twin of the Spirit. That rover is to land on the opposite side of Mars at 12:05 a.m. on Sunday, Eastern Standard Time, in the second half of the $820 million mission.

With the limited data they received from the Spirit on Friday, mission controllers have determined that its power systems are working properly, and that it can hear and respond to commands from Earth. This will enable them to begin question-and-answer sessions with the rover to determine what ails it.

The rover's software has been crashing repeatedly, and the Spirit is unable to use its main antenna. It has also not shut itself down at night, draining batteries.

"I expect this to go on in this mode for several days," Mr. Theisinger said, "talking to the spacecraft, gathering more data, whittling down theories, testing those theories against spacecraft observables and continuing that process."

In the last two days, the computer on the Spirit has rebooted itself more than 60 times, but each time the problem recurs. "For you at home, this is just like resetting your computer," Mr. Theisinger said. "We should boot up fine."

That leads him to suspect that something on the rover has broken, he said, and that the hardware failure is confusing the software.

"It is still critical," he went on. "We are still critical. We do not know to what extent we can restore functionality to the system, because we don't know what the problem is."

At the least, the diagnosis sessions are likely to cut deeply into the amount of exploration the rover will be able to do. Its mission, to examine the geology of what might be an ancient lake bed, was to last three months, and three weeks have already passed. Extending the mission may be troublesome, because dust collecting on the solar panels will reduce the power they can generate.

Controllers spent the first two weeks after the rover's landing on Jan. 3 checking out its systems. Last Saturday, it finally rolled off its platform and moved 10 feet on its first expedition, to examine a rock that scientists have named Adirondack.

The rover, which had been working almost flawlessly, began malfunctioning on Wednesday as it started its work on Adirondack. Controllers radioed a series of commands for the rover to pivot a mirror in an instrument to test its performance. "That sequence did not run to completion," Mr. Theisinger said.

The instrument's motor is one area controllers are looking at, as well as the rover's most powerful antenna, which has not sent any data since the problems began.

Brief beeps via a smaller antenna were received by the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor on Wednesday night, but the message contained only a random series of meaningless 1's and 0's. Another beeping signal was received Thursday morning, but it also held no information.

Early Friday morning, mission controllers tried to hail the rover. It did not respond.

"As we were preparing to send a second beep," Mr. Theisinger said, "the spacecraft talked to us."

The message, dispatched at a glacial 10 bits per second, was heard about 7:34 a.m. Eastern Standard Time by NASA's Deep Space Network antennas near Madrid, and lasted 10 minutes. About an hour later, the flight controllers successfully communicated with the spacecraft for 20 minutes at 120 bits per second. The rover's most powerful antenna, when working, sends data at 11,000 bits per second.

A further problem, perhaps unrelated, is that the rover has not been shutting itself down at night as it should. The rover could exhaust its batteries overnight.

Even with dead batteries, the rover can still revive itself each morning with energy from its solar panels, and recharge the batteries. But if the condition persists, it could limit the rover's activities if it is resuscitated. On Friday afternoon, when the Spirit should have been sleeping, it sent a large burst of data, mostly gibberish, to the Mars Odyssey as it passed overhead.

The rover Opportunity will make its plunge through Mars atmosphere about midnight on Saturday, aiming for a spot on the other side of Mars from the Spirit. Like its twin, the Opportunity will be slowed first by a parachute, then retrorockets. Finally, at a height of about 30 feet, it will be dropped, and the rover, encased in a cocoon of air bags, will bounce and roll for perhaps half a mile before coming to a stop.

At the news conference on Friday, Wayne Lee, chief engineer for entry, descent and landing for the rovers, said the Spirit's landing worked mostly as expected, although the craft was buffeted by a large gust of wind just before landing. The retrorockets were able to compensate, Mr. Lee said, slowing the speed of the rover's first bounce to 25 miles per hour from 50 m.p.h. The air bags are designed to cushion impacts up to 60 m.p.h.

The unrolling of the tether connecting the retrorockets and the rover, encased in air bags, also took longer than expected, so controllers have modified the Opportunity's landing sequence to deploy the parachute at a higher altitude.

The Opportunity's target is a region known as Meridiani Planum, which contains a deposit of iron oxide the size of Oklahoma. The iron oxide, known as hematite, interests scientists, because on Earth, it usually forms in the presence of water.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Meanwhile, the NASA satellite Global Surveyor, in orbit around Mars since 1997, has photographed the landing site of Spirit. It will now begin looking for Beagle 2, the British lander which has not been heard from since it landed last month.

Just like their cars. :P

March 3rd, 2004, 06:07 AM
March 3, 2004

Mars Could Once Support Life, Scientists Now Say, but Did It?


Water is the elixir of life, and scientists reported almost certain evidence yesterday that the tiny crater that holds the Mars rover Opportunity was once soaked by it.

The finding greatly increases the likelihood that Mars was a much more hospitable planet early in its history, possibly even amenable to the rise of life.

The scientists do not know what kind of wet environment existed at the Opportunity landing site: perhaps groundwater percolating up through volcanic ash, perhaps a lake, perhaps something else.

Nevertheless, "we believe at this place on Mars for some period in time, it was a habitable environment," said Dr. Steven W. Squyres, an astronomy professor at Cornell and the mission's principal investigator.

"This is the kind of place that would have been suitable for life," Dr. Squyres went on, but quickly added: "Now that doesn't mean life was there. We don't know that."

Dr. Squyres, at a news conference in Washington yesterday to announce the findings, said he could not say when the area had been wet or how long it remained that way, except that the period was not recent.

Dr. Edward J. Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for space science, said: "Our ultimate quest at Mars is to answer the age-old question, `Was there life, is there life on Mars?' Today's results are a giant leap toward achieving that long-term goal."

Dr. Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society, a space advocacy group, agreed. "If liquid water still exists underground, and there is ample evidence from more than this mission that it does," said Dr. Zubrin, who is not part of the mission, "then astronauts could reach it and then culture it to see if there is any Mars life there. Then we could see if it follows the pattern of life as we know it on Earth."

When people do go to Mars, he said, existing water would make greenhouse agriculture possible to sustain a base and also provide raw materials for fuel.

The surface of Mars is now cold and arid, and ice still exists at its poles. But persistent speculation, based on huge canyons and channels carved in parts of the surface, is that the atmosphere was once thick and warm enough to allow liquid water to exist on the surface. Another possibility is that Mars has always been cold, and liquid existed only for brief episodes following volcanic eruptions or meteor impacts.

The mission of the two rovers that NASA landed on Mars in January is to search for signs of past water. At least in a small crater on the flat plains of Meridiani Planum, the landing site of the Opportunity, scientists have succeeded.

Since its arrival on Jan. 25, the Opportunity has spotted hints of past water — fine layers in bedrock that might be sedimentary rock deposited at the bottom of a lake or sea and an iron mineral that usually forms in the presence of water. In both cases, however, there are plausible alternative explanations: the layers could be volcanic ash or sediments carried by wind, or the iron could have formed directly from lava.

But close examination of the bedrock, exposed along the rim of the crater that the Opportunity has been scooting around in, provided four lines of evidence.

The most compelling is large quantities of jarosite, a mineral that contains iron, sulfur and trapped water. "This is a mineral that you've got to have water around to make it," Dr. Squyres said.

Instruments also measured high levels of sulfur in the rocks, probably in the form of sulfur salts.

"The only way you can form such large concentrations of salt on Earth normally is to dissolve it in water and have the water evaporate," said Dr. Benton C. Clark III, chief scientist of space exploration at Lockheed Martin Space Systems and a member of the science team.

Photographs also show holes in the rocks roughly the shape and size of pennies. The scientists believe these are where minerals carried by water formed crystals that subsequently dissolved or fell out.

The final evidence is the curious round pebbles, nicknamed blueberries, that are scattered around the surface and are also embedded in the bedrock. The blueberries, the scientists said, are objects known as concretions that form within sedimentary rocks.

Dr. John P. Grotzinger, professor of earth sciences at M.I.T., said other explanations were ruled out because the pebbles did not displace the layers around them, indicating that they formed within the rock, and they were evenly distributed throughout the rock. Had the pebbles been, for instance, glass beads formed from molten rock from a volcanic eruption of a meteor impact, the pebbles would have pressed down the layers where they struck and be found only in certain layers, he said.

The discoveries make Meridiani Planum a promising candidate for a future robotic mission, probably a decade away, that would bring pieces of Mars back to Earth for closer examination.

Dr. Christopher Chyba, an astrobiologist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., who is not involved in the mission, said it was exciting to have solid evidence that water in liquid form once flowed on Mars.

"People have been talking about wet Mars for a long time," Dr. Chyba said. "There's nothing like actually having data. It's one thing to talk about it based on models and photographs. It's another thing to be on the surface and have evidence on the surface that Mars was wet. That's an exciting step."

Next, the Opportunity will cozy up to a section of the bedrock nicknamed Big Bend where scientists may find evidence that the rocks not only sat in water but also formed in water. Low-resolution photographs already show ripples and angled layers that might indicate sediment that was pushed around by flowing water.

"We don't have an answer to that one yet," Dr. Squyres said. "We may have something for you in another week to two weeks."

Warren E. Leary contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

March 13th, 2004, 05:48 AM
March 13, 2004


A Red Planet Forever in the Orbit of Science and Dreams


Mars and science fiction: a feedback loop has made both famous.

Mars and science fiction came of age together in the 1890's, and ever since they have had a tight relationship, a feedback loop that has made both famous.

It began with the American astronomer Percival Lowell, who built a technically advanced telescope and through it saw straight lines on the surface of the red planet. He explained that these had to be the canals of an alien race whose planet was drying out, forcing them to convey water from the polar caps, also visible.

Of course Lowell's elaborately postulated Martian culture was a kind of self-hypnosis, in effect a science-fiction novel already. But his speculative leap from limited evidence was not that different in method from the archaeology of Schliemann at Troy, or Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos. And so his Mars was widely accepted as a possibility based on real data.

The news galvanized the world. Other writers immediately recognized that if there really were a civilization on Mars, it could be anything; Lowell's version was only one guess. Quickly other Martian fictions appeared in all the leading industrial nations, and many had a major impact. In Germany Kurd Lasswitz's "Two Planets" (1897) sold several hundred thousand copies, and clubs formed to discuss it. Lasswitz described a Martian technological utopia, enjoying great domestic comfort through advances in food production, transport, urban planning and space travel. Young men like Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley were greatly impressed, so much so that they later became rocket scientists. It could even be said that it was Lowell's imagination that got us to the moon by 1969.

In Russia the book was "Red Star," by Aleksandr Bogdanov. Here the utopia is political, though also technically advanced. Mars's socialist civilization has been living in peace for five centuries, but when it sends emissaries to Earth, terrible problems arise. Can social progress be imposed on a less developed culture?

This very impressive novel, written in 1908, considers this and other questions while offhandedly predicting much of 20th-century history. It, too, inspired clubs, debates, professional and amateur sequels, and a generation of young scientists, including engineers in the Soviet space program.

A decade earlier in England, H. G. Wells considered what might happen if this advanced Martian civilization decided to come here and take our water, which would be as valuable to Martians as oil is to us. Wells intended "War of the Worlds" to remind British readers of the recent massacre of the Tasmanian aborigines — while putting them at the wrong end of the gun.

In the United States, on the other hand, the pulp-action adventures of Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter series abjured any heavy political message, except perhaps the idea that it would be fun to live in a fantasy Wild West forever, especially if you could leap much higher than the bad guys.

Thus from the turn of the 20th century through the 1920's, many scientifically literate people considered a Martian civilization quite possible, and fiction speculating about it was widespread and influential. By the end of the 1930's, however, the scientists were shaking their heads. Radio telescopes were revealing that the Martian atmosphere was extremely thin, and had neither oxygen nor water. Not only was civilization unlikely, but life itself looked as if it would have a hard time as well. And then Orson Welles's radio dramatization of "War of the Worlds" scared people and was declared a hoax, and this somehow debunked the whole idea.

What came after could be called Mars's dry era. Writers still wrote about the planet, and they still included aliens, but they were reduced by the new theory to postulating creatures like sentient tumbleweed or telepathic lichen beds. Arthur C. Clarke's "Sands of Mars" is a good example of this, and Philip K. Dick's "Martian Time-Slip" uses the desiccated Mars as another version of the 20th century's spiritual wasteland.

A different response to the dry Mars scenario appeared in Ray Bradbury's "Martian Chronicles." Bradbury grasped that although Lowell had been wrong, and that whole world had been lost, the stories it had generated would endure, so that whenever humans arrived on Mars, a ghost culture would already be there, ready to haunt them. This is a story that will always be true.

The Mariner and Viking missions in the 1960's and 70's gave us the actual place, all at once, fully photographed and mapped: its spectacular, gigantic landscape features were astonishing, like a dream of Monument Valley. There were clear signs of water, yet the landers indicated that the planet was entirely lifeless. Empty but real — what an opportunity.

These very findings were also part of what stimulated planetary scientists like Carl Sagan to begin discussing terraforming: altering a planet until it could support an Earthlike biosphere. As these first terraforming theorists pointed out, Mars would be the perfect candidate for the process. We could start a new Earth.

A flood of Mars terraforming novels soon followed, mine among them. Combining Viking's data with terraforming theory created an imaginative space as rich as that of Lowell's Mars, or richer, because with the aliens finally gone, the story became so clearly about us. Humanity on a rocky planet, trying to tend a biosphere. It was not only possible but necessary to consider wilderness, sustainability, ecology, economics, social justice, utopia — in short, all the things novels should talk about, and all laid out with marvelous clarity on the clean slate of Mars. It was a lucky time to be writing science fiction.

Now some kind of post-Viking era in Mars thinking has already arrived, marked by the return of the possibility of life, this time in the form of bacteria underground. This possibility changes the terraforming proposal a great deal: bringing life to a dead rock is not the same as intruding on an already existing biosphere.

Meanwhile, the feedback loop between science and science fiction continues to flow. It is, as we have seen, an elliptical loop, like the orbit of a comet. Science-fiction writers seize on new scientific findings and immediately leap to conclusions, in the form of stories. Then these stories dive into young minds and percolate there, shaping future scientists and giving them dreams, visions, plans.

Leap and percolate. These days I sometimes hear from young people who tell me they are studying some kind of science because of my Mars books. ("But you forgot to mention the math.") I feel like part of the science-fiction loop. I still follow the latest Mars news, and sometimes I wonder what the next wave of Mars stories will be like.

It seems awkward. I suppose the thing to do would be to tell the story of the robot rovers, because that's what we're going to have for a while. Maybe rovers much more powerful than Spirit and Opportunity — artificial intelligences, in fact, and happy to be on Mars, because it's the world they were designed for, and they're protecting an indigenous cryptoendolithic, or hidden in rock, bacterial culture they have discovered. So that when humans finally arrive in person, it's a disaster in the making for all concerned, and the rover artificial intelligences and little red people have to play dumb and play ghost and change humanity for the good of all, and . . .

On the stories will go.

Kim Stanley Robinson is a science-fiction writer. His new novel, "Forty Signs of Rain" (Bantam), is to be published in June.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

March 16th, 2004, 05:05 PM
Latest from www.NASA.gov (http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.html)

The Bonneville Crater:

March 20th, 2004, 11:37 PM
That's a really detailed picture of sand and rocks.

March 21, 2004

Off-Off-Off-Roading on Mars in a $414 Million S.U.V.



TO date, there are no traffic jams on Mars. This is a good thing for John R. Wright, an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory here, whose daily drive includes time at the controls of the Mars rover Spirit, whose $414 million price tag makes the most luxurious Range Rover look cheap.

But even with so many vehicular dollars in his control, Mr. Wright is not the most attentive of drivers: while his rover explores the Martian surface he has been known to watch TV, play on the computer, participate in staff meetings, yak on the cellphone, go for coffee - even visit the men's room.

But lightning-quick reflexes are not really necessary in his job, given the distance in light speed between the two planets. If either of the two rovers now on Mars - the other is called Opportunity - decided to emulate the homicidal HAL 9000 from "2001: A Space Odyssey," it would take 15 minutes for Mission Control to find out.

But Spirit is no HAL anyhow. Compared with the independent-thinking spaceship command system of the movie, the computer aboard each Mars rover is a relative dimwit. Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is affiliated with NASA and the California Institute of Technology, had design objectives for the rovers that stressed the need for comparatively little computer power - less, in fact, than the laptop on which this report was written. The designers needed something straightforward, simple, direct and light enough to be hurled 35 million miles on a tankful of rocket fuel.

The "less is more" theory of computing works better on Mars than a recent "more is more" effort on Earth: a vehicle designed by some of the same scientists, with no limits on computer size or weight, went only a few miles before crashing last weekend in an attempt to travel from Barstow, Calif., to Primm, Nev., by remote control.

Granted, the Spirit rover didn't work as well as expected in its initial Mars outings. "The problem was like one you'd have on your home computer," Mr. Wright explained. "Its hard drive was full." Once Mission Control figured out how to cleanse Spirit's memory, control was restored.

To prepare for each day's explorations, the drivers sit before twin computer monitors. For a multidimensional view of the terrain, each wears sophisticated goggles (more so than the plastic 3-D movie glasses that a prankster placed atop the monitors).

"Looks like Barstow," a visitor said of the Martian view, to which Mr. Wright replied: "Yeah, there's the outlet mall over there." Driving a rover involves little more than uploading a batch of command macros (control M is a right turn) to Mars each morning. Each Mars morning, that is.

A day on Mars is 20 minutes longer than one on Earth, and the earthbound crew lives on Martian time during the mission. Each day, they go to work at progressively later times. "Even on your days off, you have to stay on Martian time," Mr. Wright said. "So you wind up visiting a lot of all-night diners, watching bizarre movies on cable."

Many of the laboratory's scientists own fast sports cars. (Mr. Wright has a Corvette.) Their need for speed may be intensified by days spent driving rovers around at considerably less than 1 mile an hour.

Each Rover runs on six 20-watt direct-current motors capable of generating a whopping 0.06 horsepower, powered by lithium-ion batteries recharged by solar panels. The batteries are stored in a warm electric box that keeps them toasty enough to maintain a charge. Batteries tend to lose power faster in a cold climate, like that of Mars.

Top speed is officially listed at 0.1 mph, but Mr. Wright concedes that Spirit could go faster if it needed to hurry. As it might, for instance, to avoid capture by territorial Martians. ("We see a lot of 'Earthling, go home' signs up there," he confided.)

The 384-pound rovers go exploring only during daylight hours on Mars. "We could drive at night," Mr. Wright said, "but we didn't put any headlights on the rovers. So we would probably just crash into stuff."

And with no body shops in sight, crashing isn't an option.

A rover driver who crashes would be likely to lose his intragalactic driving privileges, not to mention the secret T-shirt that each of the nine drivers wears. The shirts say "Rover Driver" on the front and display the image of a flaming skull on the back.

Not that crashes are likely. While capable of climbing over 15-inch rocks without tipping, the six-wheel rovers are seldom asked to do much more than scoot a few feet a day to take a closer look at something. Each has a scraping tool capable of testing soil composition and evaluating rock samples.

The mission is scheduled to come to a pragmatic end sometime this spring, when the financing runs out. "At that point, I guess we'll just turn out the lights, lock the doors in here, and go on to something else," Mr. Wright said.

Then the trusty rovers will sit patiently on Mars waiting, like Pavlov's dogs, to answer a bell that is unlikely to ring again.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

March 21st, 2004, 05:54 AM
March 21, 2004

Is the Aerospace Industry Ready for Mars?


CAN they do it?

When President Bush announced a plan early this year to send Americans back to the moon - and beyond, to Mars - skeptics wondered whether NASA, with its decades of tread-water budgets and institutional inertia, was up to the job.

Equally important, though, is a companion question: Is the aerospace industry up to the job? Boeing, for one, says it is eager to take up the challenge, and refers to decades of expertise in running enormously complex space ventures.

But the very process that made it the biggest NASA contractor - a sweeping consolidation of the aerospace industry - has sharply reduced competition, and with it, critics say, the creative clash of ideas that helps produce great technological leaps.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin and other companies that contribute to the space program are the stewards of an ailing industry, facing a brain drain as its aging engineers retire, with few newcomers entering the field.

The uncertainty has been underscored recently. Since Mr. Bush made his initial announcement, which was greeted with some public skepticism, he has been largely silent on the subject, not even mentioning it in his State of the Union address.

"Is the nation really going to support, given the budget deficit, spending more money on a manned mission?" asked Cai von Rumohr, an aerospace analyst at SG Cowan. Given all the unknowns, he said, trying to estimate the impact on particular companies is not even worth the effort. "You're talking lots of dollars, a long-term horizon, an unclear political mandate," he said. "There's still lots of 'ifs.' "

For Boeing, any rewards in Mr. Bush's vision are especially vague, said Prof. Charles Hill at the University of Washington in Seattle, who has studied the company for years and calls himself "extremely skeptical."

If space exploration proceeds, of course, Boeing stands to benefit tremendously. The company has absorbed the military and aerospace units of Rockwell, builder of the space shuttle; Rocketdyne, a Rockwell unit that built the main shuttle engines; and McDonnell Douglas, builder of some shuttle components.

Though any missions to the moon or to Mars would be "strategically important" to Boeing in its attempts to broaden beyond commercial aviation and military work, it has pressing issues to deal with now, Professor Hill added.

Last year, Airbus surpassed it in commercial aviation sales. Last month, the government canceled its longstanding development work on the Comanche helicopter. The company also said that it would curb production of its 767 tanker plane because of the Pentagon's review of whether Boeing acted improperly by hiring a former military official. In 2003, the space unit of Boeing lost nearly $1.8 billion on $3 billion in revenue.

Though a Mars mission could be lucrative, it would not lift Boeing out of its current trough, Professor Hill said. "It is so far out in the future,'' he said.

Still, John M. Lounge, a former astronaut who is director of program development for Boeing NASA Systems in Houston, said he was energized by the prospect of President Bush's proposal. "I was afraid we were on a 'going out of business' plan for American human space flight," he said.

Mike Mott, a Boeing vice president and general manager for its NASA systems, said the company was up to the task. "The complexity of developing, integrating and operating the dozens, if not hundreds, of robotic, human and telerobotic systems it will take to launch, assemble, transfer, land and build permanent habitats on the moon and Mars far exceeds anything we have ever attempted to do in space," he testified on March 5 before the President's Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. "But we have been building vehicles in space for a fairly long time. We know how to do that part of it. We have been integrating very large, complex, adaptable, long-term systems. So we know how to do that, as well."

BUT those who have studied today's space program and NASA's relationships with its biggest contractors have misgivings.

For one thing, technical skill is slipping away as the generations of engineers who gave the nation the Apollo and shuttle programs have been laid off or have retired. The aerospace industry has shrunk by half since its peak of 1.3 million workers in 1989. Some 27 percent of those remaining will probably retire by 2008, according to the Aerospace Industries Association; three-quarters of NASA's technicians are over 60.

When NASA needed to build a new shuttle after the Challenger disaster in 1986, companies like McDonnell Douglas had to bring engineers out of retirement, said Randy Jayne, a former aerospace executive who is now a senior partner at Heidrick & Struggles International, the executive search firm. Now, he said, with retired engineers even older, rehiring them "is less realistic as an option."

And their expertise is not being replenished. Bright engineering students are now more likely to go into areas like the Internet or biotechnology. Once the "industry of choice" for technical workers, aerospace "presents a negative image to potential employees," the industry association said. A survey of 500 American aerospace workers found that 80 percent would not recommend that their children follow them into the field.

Consolidation has hurt, too. Pulling rivals into a big tent can create a "more comfortable atmosphere" for corporate management, according to a study by the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in 2002, but over time it drains the industry of competition - the lifeblood of innovation - and "leads unavoidably to stagnation."

Reduced financing causes a further squeeze, the report said. Companies shifted their focus from the space business, which has thin profit margins and is subject to the capriciousness of politics, making even the commercial jet business seem reliable by comparison.

Private industry has always had a role in the space program, but that role has expanded so much that the final report on last year's Columbia disaster concluded that the space agency had given too much authority to contractors like the United Space Alliance, which is owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin. An appendix to the report recommended something that could be seen as heretical: looking to new companies for support in future contracts.

NASA is not the only government agency with complex projects and risky goals, the report said: "The Department of Energy solicits competitive bids for management and operating contracts, with the result that nationally known construction firms, component manufacturers, nonprofit institutions, universities and even aerospace firms regularly vie for the work at a fraction of the fee NASA pays for these services. If they can design nuclear weapons and naval nuclear propulsion plants for the Department of Energy, why cannot NASA overcome its attachment to the aerospace industry to seek management and operating support from a broader base?"

John M. Logsdon, the director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University and a member of the commission that investigated the Columbia accident, said he found such conclusions "narrow minded." But he agreed that the relationships between NASA and its contractors needed to be revitalized.

The grand challenge of missions to the moon and to Mars, he said, may be just the thing to breathe new life into those programs. "What this vision does is provide a focus, not only for revitalization of NASA, but the revitalization of the U.S. civil space capability," he said, "including the industrial base, including academia."

MR. LOUNGE of Boeing said the important thing was to keep exploring. "This isn't a project that takes 5 or 10 years or even 20 years,'' he said. "This is a 100-year activity. This is something we choose to do because it's fundamental to our nature to explore."

More than contracts or politics, space flight is about wonder, Mr. Lounge said. As an astronaut, he recalled having little free time during missions to think about the larger aspects of space flight. But before he went to sleep, he said, "my nose was against the window looking out, saying, 'Oh my God, can you believe it?' "

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

May 4th, 2004, 07:48 AM
May 4, 2004

Postcards From the Mars Rover Mission


Exceeding their original three-month missions, the two NASA rovers on Mars have now traversed more of the surface of another planet than any previous mission (although the Apollo astronauts did view a larger portion of the lunar landscape).

The rover Spirit has rolled more than four-fifths of a mile across the 95-mile-wide expanse of Gusev crater, where a meteor struck the planet long ago. The basin may have once been filled with water if, as some scientists think, Mars was once a warmer and wetter place.

On the other side of Mars, the rover Opportunity has traveled less, just over half a mile, but that is because it landed smack in the middle of a scientific trove. On a vast flat plain known as Meridiani Planum, the Opportunity ended up by luck in a 70-foot-wide crater with exposed bedrock along the inner rim.

The Opportunity spent its first two months crawling around the crater before leaving in March.

Mission managers at NASA have become much more efficient at driving the rovers. Initially moving in increments of 10 feet a day, the rovers now routinely make drives of hundreds of feet in a day.

Here are some of the places that the Spirit and the Opportunity have been, and some of the things they have seen.

Kenneth Chang

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Paths of Mars Landers (http://www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/science/20040504_MARS/sci_MARS_040504_01.pdf)

May 7th, 2004, 11:03 AM
May 7, 2004

New Crater Beckons Mars Rover


The Mars rover Opportunity took this panoramic photograph of the 430-foot-wide crater known as Endurance, which scientists are eager to explore with the rover's instruments.
NASA photo

Perched on the edge of a 430-foot-wide crater, the Mars rover Opportunity has spied a new treasure trove of rocks that promise to tell a richer, deeper story of the planet's geological past.

At a news conference yesterday at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Dr. Steven W. Squyres, the mission's principal investigator, called a high-resolution color panorama "surely the most spectacular image yet from this mission."

The photograph of the crater, named Endurance after Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton's ship in the 1914 expedition to Antarctica, is spectacular not just for "sheer scenic grandeur," Dr. Squyres said, but "also for the scientific potential that it offers."

The Opportunity will spend several weeks circling the outside of Endurance as mission managers try to figure out whether the rover can safely enter it and, more uncertain, make its way out again.

The crater is up to 66 feet deep, with slopes of 20 degrees and steeper. But Dr. Squyres said it was conceivable that the Opportunity would be sent in, even if mission managers were convinced it would be a one-way trip.

The scientists want to examine the crater's bedrock close-up with a suite of instruments on the rover. The $835 million mission of the Opportunity and the Spirit, its twin on the other side of Mars, is to look for signs that the planet was once much warmer and wetter, perhaps even amenable to life. Both rovers are to operate through at least September.

Based on the analysis of bedrock of the small crater that it landed in, the Opportunity has already discovered compelling evidence that the vast, flat plain Meridiani Planum was once a salty sea.

The Opportunity crawled out of the first crater, Eagle, in March, headed east toward Endurance crater, almost a half-mile away. It arrived last Friday.

Since then, it has been taking photographs and measurements.

Endurance crater exposes the same bedrock layers seen previously, but also reveals deeper layers that could tell what existed there before the sea. "We see enormous outcrops," Dr. Squyres said, "much bigger than anything we've seen before of layered rock."

In the Eagle crater, about a foot of bedrock was exposed. In Endurance, bedrock yards high is visible. "Here, there are cliffs that the rover could fall off and die if we're not careful," Dr. Squyres said.

The mineralogy of the lower rock layers appears markedly different, Dr. Squyres said, rich in basalt and lacking the sulfates seen in the upper layers, and there are hints in the photographs of large angled layers that may be the remains of sand dunes that turned to stone.

"We're going to be looking for evidence of a beach environment — was there something like that going on?" Dr. Squyres said. "I don't know what it's going to be, but it ain't what we saw back at Eagle. It's something different."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

May 7th, 2004, 11:14 AM
COOL :shock:

June 21st, 2004, 03:12 PM
Private craft soars into space, history
By Michael Coren
Monday, June 21, 2004 Posted: 2:10 PM EDT (1810 GMT)

MOJAVE, California (CNN) -- SpaceShipOne left the Earth behind on Monday morning and made its indelible entry in the history books as the first private spacecraft to carry humans into space. It touched down safely at Mojave Airport at 11:15 ET.

"It looks great," said Burt Rutan, chief of Scaled Composites, which built the craft. He gave a thumbs up on the runway as he squinted into the sun at the aircraft he designed.

At 10:51 ET, Mike Melvill ignited the rocket engines and piloted SpaceShipOne into the blackness of space. His trajectory took him more than 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, above Earth's surface, according to Scaled Composites flight officials.

"It was a mind-blowing experience, it really was -- absolutely an awesome thing," Melvill said after landing.

"The colors were pretty staggering. From up there, it's almost a religious experience."

Melvill said once he reached weightlessness, he opened a bag of M&M's in the cockpit that floated around for three minutes while the ship sailed high above California.

The rocket plane lifted off about 9:45 ET carried by the jet White Knight for an hourlong ascent.

At 10:35 ET, it reached 33,000 feet and the pilot reported all systems checked out for its space launch.

It received clearance to land and "go for light" -- the signal to begin launch countdown -- at 10:46 ET.

The pair approached 50,000 feet a few minutes later and SpaceShipOne decoupled from the jet. After a brief glide, Melvill ignited the engines and ascended at Mach 3, three times the speed of sound, into space.

From the cockpit, the curvature of the Earth and a thin blue line that demarcates our atmosphere was visible against the black sky. Melvill, the first astronaut to pilot a private spacecraft, maneuvered the plane for descent on the same runway it departed nearly two hours earlier.

On landing, Melvill told of a loud bang he heard during the flight. He said it appeared to have been part of the composite airframe buckling near the rocket nozzle. However, the slight indention in SpaceShipOne's exterior did not appear to have jeopardized the craft's performance.

"There was a lot thrust from the plane," said Melvill. "It took me by surprise back there. Everything went really well. I feel great."

The flight marks the pinnacle of Rutan's vision of affordable, safe private space travel. His company Scaled Composites built SpaceShipOne with financial backing from Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, for a little more than $20 million. From just a concept in 1995 to reality less than a decade later, Rutan said this was the realization of a long dream..

"I'm so proud of that, it brings tears to my eyes," he said.

The rocket plane made its farthest and fastest flight to date.

A prelude to future flights
Those on hand for the launch -- including officals from NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, the X Prize foundation and the Guinness Book of Records -- were reverent of the historic moment. Peter Diamandis, co-founder of the X Prize, the $10 million prize for civilian spaceflight, said Rutan's vision would open the door for those with the same dream and designs on the X prize.

"This is a warm-up for the Ansari X Prize, but it's a historic moment for all Americans," he said. "(I've heard), 'If God wanted us to fly into space, he would have given us more money'. Hopefully, the technology demonstrated here today will lead to designs that are cheaper and easier."

Scaled Composites is one of 24 companies from several countries competing for the X Prize, which will go to the first privately funded group to send three people on a suborbital flight 62.5 miles (100.6 kilometers) high and repeat the feat within two weeks using the same vehicle.

The nonprofit X Prize Foundation is sponsoring the contest to promote the development of a low-cost, efficient craft for space tourism in the same way prize competitions stimulated commercial aviation in the early 20th century.

The prize is fully funded through January 1, 2005, according to the foundation's Web site.

With Melvill on board, Monday's flight tested SpaceShipOne's ability to reach the 62.5-mile altitude, the internationally agreed-upon boundary of space.

Spectators witness history

SpaceShipOne landed safely in the Mojave Desert Monday after flying into space, reaching an altitude of 62.5 miles.
The remote desert Mojave airport, home to the world's only civilian test flight center and a licensed spaceport, was also host to an assortment of vehicles that converged on the site from around the country.

Buses, RVs, electric scooters, small ultralights and a menagerie of other vehicles were parked in the sandy soil across from the runway.

A sense of historic anticipation was shared by many of the spectators. Some said that after waiting decades, they were finally witnessing the first steps toward spaceflight for them.

Josh Collins, 25, said he had flown from Maryland to see the attempt.

"Some people thought I was crazy, other people are jealous," he said. "I can't wait to see the launch. It's going to be historic."

Scaled Composites is one of 24 companies from several countries competing for the $10 million Ansari X Prize, which will go to the first privately funded group to send three people on a suborbital flight 62.5 miles (100.6 kilometers) high and repeat the feat within two weeks using the same vehicle.

The nonprofit X Prize Foundation is sponsoring the contest to promote the development of a low-cost, efficient craft for space tourism in the same way prize competitions stimulated commercial aviation in the early 20th century.

The prize is fully funded through January 1, 2005, according to the foundation's Web site.

June 21st, 2004, 03:53 PM
Yahoo! News
June 21, 2004

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?p=news&g=events/sc/060304spaceshipone&e=1&tmpl=sl]Slide (http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/photos/recip/ss/*[url) Show: SpaceShipOne Project[/url]


SpaceShipOne lifted off early on June 21, 2004 in the initial stage of the world's first attempted commercial space flight. The privately funded rocket plane was attached to a larger plane called the White Knight and took off from a runway in the Mojave Desert in California, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles. The unprecedented $20 million project is intended to demonstrate the viability of commercial space flight and open the door for space tourism. The SpaceShipOne is pictured landing at the Mojave Airport in this undated photograph. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

June 20th, 2005, 11:13 PM
www.planetary.org/solarsail (http://www.planetary.org/solarsail)


Cosmos 1 is the world's first orbital solar sail. It uses pressure from photons to gain altitude.

The spacecraft will be lauched on a former Soviet ICBM (Volna) by a submarine in the Barents sea at 3:46 EDT.

Some text from the site:
At launch, the main engine of the first stage of the Volna rocket will burn before shutting down and disengaging from the main body. The second stage will then ignite, burn, and disengage from the third stage, which in turn will separate from the payload compartment after completing its burn. A little more than 6 minutes after shooting up from the submarine, the three-stage Volna rocket will have completed its role in the mission.

At this point the apogee kick motor, which is attached to the payload compartment and unofficially named the “TPS Motor,” will begin a 70 seconds orbit insertion burn. When this is completed the motor and the protective cover encasing the payload compartment will be discarded, leaving the spacecraft alone in orbit, spinning at 22 revolutions per minute. The entire process, from submarine launch to orbit insertion, will last just under 20 minutes."

Mission update:

"With less than 24 hours to launch, the Cosmos 1 team is going through final preparations. At Project Operations Pasadena (POP), located at The Planetary Society headquarters, the team, headed by Project Operations Manager Jim Cantrell, has been finishing up a series of rehearsals. Project Director Louis Friedman, meanwhile, is already in Moscow, where he will follow the mission from the Flight Control Center at NPO Lavochkin. Bud Schurmeier, the project’s Systems Engineering consultant, is there with him.
Speaking from Moscow, Friedman described the ongoing preparations in Russia leading up to the launch. “We had a meeting today at the Tarusa ground station with the entire group,” he said. Tarusa is a UHF tracking station located 75 miles southeast of Moscow, which will play a critical role in the early stages of the mission. “During the first orbit,” explained Friedman, “Tarusa will be responsible for most of the ground control and communications with the spacecraft.”

At the meeting Friedman and Schurmeier heard a detailed report on the spacecraft testing that took place at the naval base in Severmorsk during the past two weeks. All the tests were satisfactory, and the spacecraft is ready for flight. The meeting also included a report on the ground-station preparations. Communications between the different stations have been tested, including the transference of data between Russian, Czech, and American stations spread around the world.

“It is looking good - no one has reported any anomalies or problems,” said Friedman. “The feeling here is the usual one before a space mission, ranging from nervousness to optimism.” “The group here is extremely professional and experienced – they have done this before.” But as is always the case with a space mission, Friedman added, “there are no guarantees.”

Meanwhile in Severmorsk, the submarine that will launch Cosmos 1 has been designated. It is none other than the Borisoglebsk – the same Delta III nuclear submarine that launched the suborbital flight of the solar sail in July 2001. Borisoglebsk will leave harbor in the evening hours of Tuesday, June 21, and cruise for 4 or 5 hours to its designated launch station. Then, shortly before midnight (19:46 UT), it will launch the Volna rocket carrying Cosmos 1, the first Solar Sail spacecraft."

June 21st, 2005, 04:23 PM
T +2 min: first stage separation confirmed.

T + 32 min: ground station at Petropavlovsk reports receiving a brief signal from the spacecraft, then losing it. Most likely due to one of the orbital insertion burns. Majuro will be the next contact.

June 21st, 2005, 04:34 PM
T +46 min: Majuro did not receive a signal. Next contact will be in about 50 minutes at Panska Ves.

June 21st, 2005, 04:53 PM
Analyzation of the brief intial signal indicates the engine burns happened about when they were supposed to.

June 21st, 2005, 08:59 PM

It disappeared. :(

June 22nd, 2005, 01:43 AM
w00tness: reanalysis of data from the Majuro and Panska Ves stations reveals a weak singal at both places.

TLOZ Link5
June 22nd, 2005, 12:18 PM
Star Wars geek moment:

In Episode II, Count Dooku has a starship that uses a solar sail.

June 22nd, 2005, 02:54 PM
Russian military now reports that the Volna booster failed at T+83 seconds. This would mean that the spacecraft is either in pieces around Russia or in a lower orbit.

However, the signals received last night would tend to disagree with the pieces option.

June 22nd, 2005, 05:14 PM
Time to getthe sail crew going to see if they can get some tack!!!!


This sounds interesting though. Imagine being able to launch stuff to different planets simply by timing the launch....

Getting back might be difficult though... :(

September 19th, 2005, 10:12 AM
NASA to offer $100 billion moon program

By Reuters
http://news.com.com/NASA+to+offer+100+billion+moon+program/2100-11397_3-5871563.html (http://news.com.com/NASA+to+offer+100+billion+moon+program/2100-11397_3-5871563.html)

Story last modified Sun Sep 18 14:13:00 PDT 2005

With the shuttle fleet grounded and the International Space Station staffed by a skeleton crew, NASA is set to unveil plans on Monday to take people and cargo to the moon.

Even before the official announcement, there is criticism from Capitol Hill over the reported $100 billion cost of the lunar program, given U.S. government commitments to the Iraq war and the recovery from Hurricane Katrina (http://news.com.com/RFID+chips+used+to+track+dead+after+Katrina/2100-11390_3-5869708.html?tag=nl).

"This plan is coming out at a time when the nation is facing significant budgetary challenges," Rep. Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat on the House Science Committee, said in a statement. "Getting agreement to move forward on it is going to be heavy lifting in the current environment, and it's clear that strong presidential leadership will be needed."

To get astronauts back to the moon for the first time since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, one team of designers envisioned an Apollo-style capsule sitting atop rockets fashioned from shuttle components, including the shuttle's massive external tank and solid rocket boosters. There would be a separate space vehicle to carry only cargo.

The Space.com Web site reported that this scenario was presented to White House officials last week before its formal unveiling to the public on Monday. The new $100 billion lunar program would begin in 2018 by landing four people on the moon for a seven-day stay, Space.com reported.

NASA officials could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

President's vision for space

President George W. Bush's plan to send Americans back to the moon by 2020 and eventually on to Mars has drawn skepticism since its unveiling in January 2004, less than a year after the Feb. 1, 2003, shuttle Columbia disaster.
Bush's Vision for Space Exploration called for the development of a system to replace the aging shuttles, a goal that appears even more important given problems with the shuttle fleet's return to flight.

The same problems with falling debris that doomed Columbia recurred in July with the launch of Discovery (http://news.com.com/Discovery+lands+with+its+future+up+in+the+air/2100-7337_3-5827211.html?tag=nl), prompting the grounding of the shuttle fleet even as Discovery continued to fly its mission. A September shuttle mission was delayed until November and then to March.

Some $1.1 billion damage by Hurricane Katrina to NASA facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi could push the launch date back further still.

Bush's plan also mandated the completion of the International Space Station, but without shuttles to do the heavy lifting, that process has been on hold. A pair of Russian vehicles--the space taxi Soyuz and the space delivery van Progress--have been ferrying people and material.

Since the fatal Columbia disaster, only two-person crews, rather than the normal three-person crews, have stayed aboard the station.

With the shuttles slated for retirement in 2010, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has estimated that the number of construction flights to the station could be pared from its earlier estimate of 28 to 15.

Story Copyright (http://news.com.com/2106-12-0.html) © 2005 Reuters Limited (http://news.com.com/redir?destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.reuters.com&edId=3&siteId=3&oId=2001-12-0&ontId=12&lop=reut_copy_ni). All rights reserved.

Copyright (http://www.cnet.com/aboutcnet/0-13611-7-811029.html?tag=ft) ©1995-2005 CNET Networks, Inc. All rights reserved.

September 19th, 2005, 10:27 AM
Wow! We're flush in cash!

A billion a day in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two hundred billion for Katrina. One hundred million for the moon.

These tax cuts are really paying off. I can't wait until we get to the stupid things like healthcare, social security,and higher education. But, I'm glad they understand the priority of visiting the moon. I was afraid for a minute that George W. was out of touch...

TLOZ Link5
September 19th, 2005, 02:07 PM
Well, if it weren't for the space program, we wouldn't have the Internet, or sattelites, or all of those other ridiculous and unneeded technological advances.

September 19th, 2005, 05:48 PM
True - we also wouldn't have Tang, or Sudafed and a hundred other things that were developed for "space". However, they could just have easily been developed for civilian use. It wasn't the "space science" that developed these things - it was our tax dollars.

September 19th, 2005, 06:09 PM
Well, if it weren't for the space program, we wouldn't have the Internet, or sattelites, or all of those other ridiculous and unneeded technological advances.

This is true, but NASA is far from the most efficient way to develop new technologies. It's like throwing a trillion dollars at a wall and seeing what sticks. Perhaps the X Prize (http://www.xprizefoundation.com/) model could waste less while still developing new technology.

September 20th, 2005, 11:35 AM
True, but that is the case with most political agencies Ryan.

Except with them, it is like throwing the money up in the air to see what it sticks to. At least this is throwing it at something a little more solid.

And if I hear one more person mention "Tang" as the ultimate achievement of the space program, I am going to smack them. Agreed, we REALLY do not need to know that ants find it hard to build anthills in space but at the same time, total abandonment of scientific exploration because things seem to be bad at home is not a viable excuse for the curtailment of all exploration of scientific research.

I think the funding of bridges in Alaska, or homeland security in Kansas would be things I find to be more easily discountable as unnecessary tax expendatures in a time of fiscal crisis.

Also, as McCain said, programs like the Medicare (medicaid?) persciption plan need to be re-vamped from the very base up. As tehy are written now they are almost a direct funding of Pharmeceutical companies rather than a way to make perscriptoin medication affordable.....

October 1st, 2005, 08:34 AM
October 1, 2005
U.S. Space Tourist Blasts Off in Russian Rocket

Filed at 6:48 a.m. ET

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AP) -- A Russian rocket roared into space Saturday in a burst of flame from the Central Asian steppes, launching the world's third space tourist, U.S millionaire scientist Gregory Olsen, and a U.S-Russian crew on a two-day trip to the international space station.

With a brief gasp from relatives and friends of Olsen, cosmonaut Valery Tokarev and astronaut William McArthur, the Soyuz craft lifted off with an earsplitting roar from the Baikonur cosmodrome just before 10 a.m. and soared north into the bright autumn sky over the steppes of Kazakhstan.

More than 150 people, including Russian and U.S. space dignitaries, tourists and relatives of the three men, watched as the rocket rose into the air. Some gave gasped at the explosive separation of the first booster segment, which sent a puff of white smoke as the rocket turned downrange. Then, as the announcement came that the spacecraft had entered its initial designated orbit nine minutes after launch, the crowd burst into applause. The crew reported that all was well aboard the craft.

Olsen, the 60-year-old founder of an infrared-camera maker based in Princeton, N.J., reportedly paid $20 million for a seat on the Expedition 12 flight.

Olsen's daughter, Krista Dibsie, 31, videotaped the launch, craning her head skyward as tears rolled down her cheeks. Her 4-year-old son, Justin, held his hands over his ears, his mouth wide open, near more than 20 other friends, relatives and employees of Olsen's company, Sensors Unlimited Inc.

''There goes Dad,'' she said quietly. ''Love ya' Dad.''

''Now I'm nervous for him,'' she said. ''I wasn't before but now he's up there and gosh, he's out of this world. I know that's a corny thing to say, but I can't believe it.''

Olsen holds advanced degrees in physics and materials science.

''Life is good,'' said Cynthia McArthur, whose husband William is a three-time veteran of U.S. space shuttle flights.

McArthur and Takarev will spend six months on the station, replacing Russian Sergei Krikalev and American John Phillips, who will return to Earth on Oct. 11 along with Olsen.

In the hours leading up the launch, the trio, outfitted in bulky space suits, had tested systems in the capsule. Shortly beforehand, they lowered the clear plastic covers on their helmets and activated the spacesuits' oxygen supply.

The Soyuz TMA-7 capsule will rendezvous in two days with the station floating some 250 miles above the Earth. Olsen, Tokarev and McArthur will bring cargo aboard and perform experiments.

The cash-strapped Russian Federal Space Agency has turned to space tourism to generate money. Olsen is the third non-astronaut to visit the orbiting station. California businessman Dennis Tito paid about $20 million for a weeklong trip to the space station in 2001, and South African Mark Shuttleworth followed a year later.

Olsen said prior to the flight that he preferred the term ''space flight participant'' to ''space tourist.''

'''Tourism' implies that anyone can just write a check and go up there. That's not what happened,'' he told The Associated Press.

Eric Anderson, whose company, Space Adventures, brokered the arrangements with the Russian agency, said allowing non-astronauts to fly to the ISS expanded the boundaries of space travel.

''People going into space is interesting no matter what. But when it's a civilian like Greg, it just shows how accessible space flight can be,'' he said.

With the rocket being fueled on the launch pad Friday, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin met with his Russian counterpart, Anatoly Perminov, for talks on the future of joint space missions, with NASA's chief warning that Moscow's demands for payment could end U.S participation.

Griffin said a 2000 U.S. law banning space station-related payments to Russia because Moscow helped Iran build a nuclear plant ''could end a continuous American presence'' on the station.

Since the 2003 Columbia disaster grounded the U.S. shuttle fleet, Russia's Soyuz and Progress spacecraft have been the workhorses of the joint space projects, shuttling crews and cargo to the space station. Discovery visited the station in July, but problems with the foam insulation on its external fuel tank have cast doubt on when the shuttle will fly again.

Russia has made it clear that it expects the United States to make payment or some sort of capital investment in exchange for future U.S. participation on Russian flights.

However, the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 penalizes countries that sell unconventional weapons and missile technology to Iran. Russia is building an $800 million nuclear power plant in Iran despite U.S objections that this could help Tehran build atomic bombs.

The U.S. Senate agreed unanimously last week to amend the law, lifting the ban on NASA purchases of Soyuz seats until 2012. The House has yet to act on the measure.

Griffin said unless exemptions are made for NASA's work with Russia, it was possible that no U.S. astronauts would be flying on the next Soyuz mission in April.

''At issue is whether there will be future U.S. crew members and future U.S. crew missions if the congressional provisions are not granted,'' he said.

NASA officials in Houston said Thursday that they expect McArthur to return to Earth aboard a Soyuz in the spring, one way or another.

October 1st, 2005, 09:00 AM
The only thing I got out of this story is how ironic it is that the guy is paying $20 million for a two day joy ride that departs from Kazakhstan, a country whose poverty level is alarming, and the orphanages can't even hold all the parent-less children. I hope he enjoys himself.

October 1st, 2005, 03:38 PM
What I get from the story is that if it were not for Olsen, americans would not be on the international space station. Somebody has to pay for the rockets, and it's not Kazakhstan, but Russians who pay for it. I think Russians also pay Kazakhstan for the use of launch pad.

October 1st, 2005, 03:54 PM
This logic of this issue of nonproliferation ban and cooperation on international space station escapes me. What was the thinking - "We will punish Russians by not giving money for the rockets, but since we need these rockets to keep space station alive and send americans there, it's OK to use it for free?"

Gregory Tenenbaum
October 4th, 2005, 06:53 AM
The only thing I got out of this story is how ironic it is that the guy is paying $20 million for a two day joy ride that departs from Kazakhstan, a country whose poverty level is alarming, and the orphanages can't even hold all the parent-less children. I hope he enjoys himself.

Agree. I am not related to him despite having the same name by the way. Just wanted to clear that up.

October 8th, 2005, 11:41 AM
The Soyuz is amazing. I think in its variations it's flown over 1700 flights without failure.

October 8th, 2005, 12:07 PM
I wish I had the airfare.

October 10th, 2005, 09:21 PM

January 16th, 2006, 07:16 PM
NASA Set to Launch Spacecraft to Pluto

The Associated Press
Monday, January 16, 2006; 6:09 PM

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- An unmanned NASA spacecraft the size of a piano is set to lift off Tuesday on a nine-year journey to Pluto, the last unexplored planet in the solar system.

Scientists hope to learn more about the icy planet and its large moon, Charon, as well as two other, recently discovered moons in orbit around Pluto.

The $700 million New Horizons mission also will study the surrounding Kuiper Belt, the mysterious zone of the solar system that is believed to hold thousands of comets and other icy objects. It could hold clues to how the planets were formed.

"They finally are going! I can't believe it!" said Patricia Tombaugh, 93, widow of Clyde Tombaugh, the Illinois-born astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930.

Patricia Tombaugh, her two children, and the astronomer's younger sister planned to witness the launch of the New Horizons spacecraft at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Tuesday afternoon.

Pluto is the only planet discovered by a U.S. citizen, though some astronomers dispute Pluto's right to be called a planet. It is an oddball icy dwarf unlike the rocky planets of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars and the gaseous planets of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

NASA has sent unmanned space probes to every planet but Pluto.

"What we know about Pluto today could fit on the back of a postage stamp," said Colleen Hartman, a deputy associate administrator at NASA. "The textbooks will be rewritten after this mission is completed."

New Horizons will lift off on an Atlas V rocket, which was rolled to the launch pad Monday, and speed away from Earth at 36,000 mph, the fastest spacecraft ever launched. It will reach Earth's moon in about nine hours and arrive in 13 months at Jupiter, where it will use the giant planet's gravity as a slingshot, shaving five year off the 3-billion-mile trip.

and speed away from Earth at 36,000 mph, the fastest spacecraft ever launched. It will reach Earth's moon in about nine hours and arrive in 13 months at Jupiter, where it will use the giant planet's gravity as a slingshot, shaving five year off the 3-billion-mile trip.

The launch had drawn protests from anti-nuclear activists because the spacecraft will be powered by 24 pounds of plutonium, which will produce energy from natural radioactive decay.

NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy have put the probability of an early-launch accident that could release plutonium at 1 in 350. The agencies have brought in 16 mobile field teams that can detect radiation and 33 air samplers and monitors.

"Just as we have ambulances at football games, you don't expect to use them, but we have them there if we need them," NASA official Randy Scott said.


On the Net:

Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space:


New Horizons Mission: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu

© 2006 The Associated Press

space.com (http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/sfn_060116_newhorizons_rollout.html)

January 17th, 2006, 03:32 PM
Been looking forward to this mission for a long time. Guess we'll have to wait a little longer. Launch scrubbed - too windy.

If for some reason it doesn't launch before Feb. 14 they won't be able to use Jupiter as a slingshot adding years more to reach Pluto.

January 17th, 2006, 03:43 PM
The launch had drawn protests from anti-nuclear activists because the spacecraft will be powered by 24 pounds of plutonium, which will produce energy from natural radioactive decay.

What the hell is their problem on this?

1. Like radiation is so uncommon in space
2. I guess the plutonium would be better here on earth.
3. I guess the plutonium would be better used as an explosive.

I, myself, do not like the idea of radioactive waste and all that, but protesting this is just plain stupid.

January 17th, 2006, 06:13 PM
to use Jupiter as a slingshotI think it's funny that the momentum gained by the spacecraft is lost by Jupiter, so it will rotate a little slower.

January 17th, 2006, 06:17 PM
What the hell is their problem on this?Their belief system states that plutonium is evil.

January 18th, 2006, 09:13 AM
Their belief system states that plutonium is evil.

So shouldn't we be sending it home? ;)

January 19th, 2006, 02:18 PM
New Horizons successfully launched at 2:00 pm today.
Next stop, Jupiter - in only one year.

January 19th, 2006, 05:02 PM
Plutonium on a journey to Pluto.

I think that's very holistic.

January 19th, 2006, 06:02 PM
Plutonium on a journey to Pluto.

I think that's very holistic.

It's better than the place they were thinking of storing Uranium.......

January 19th, 2006, 06:07 PM

January 23rd, 2006, 10:33 AM
Yay. I actually looked for this thing for 3 days at its scheduled launch times from the Caribbean. Never saw it. My name is onboard New Horizons along with many others.

February 1st, 2006, 04:36 PM
^So is mine!

News on Kuiper Belt Object, UB313, Pluto's big brother.....

Bigger Than Pluto, but Smaller Than a Planet?

By KENNETH CHANG (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=KENNETH CHANG&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=KENNETH CHANG&inline=nyt-per)
Published: February 1, 2006


Astronomers describe measurements that pin a size on 2003 UB313, a large ball of ice and dust in the outskirts of the solar system.

Bigger than a breadbox. Bigger than Pluto.

Still smaller than a planet?

In an article to be published on Thursday in the journal Nature, a team of German astronomers describe measurements that pin a size on 2003 UB313, a large ball of ice and dust discovered last year in the outskirts of the solar system.

"This is the first measurement of the size," said Frank Bertoldi, a professor of astronomy at the University of Bonn and the lead author of the Nature paper. The scientists said 2003 UB313 is 1,860 miles in diameter, give or take 250 miles, or 30 percent wider than Pluto, which has a diameter of 1,400 miles. Like Pluto, 2003 UB313 is a member of the Kuiper Belt, a ring of icy debris that orbits beyond Neptune.

As soon as it was discovered, astronomers knew that 2003 UB313 had to be larger than Pluto, because it appears surprisingly bright in the sky. At a distance of 9 billion miles from the Sun, 2003 UB313, even if it had a perfectly reflective surface, would have to possess a greater surface area than Pluto in order to appear that bright.

To figure out how large 2003 UB313 is, Dr. Bertoldi and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, measured the amount of heat emanating from 2003 UB313 and calculated a surface temperature of about minus-418 degrees Fahrenheit. Combined with the previous optical observations, the astronomers calculated that 2003 UB313 reflects about 60 percent of the light that hits it.

That, in turn, gives the size.

The discovery of 2003 UB313 has renewed debate about what should be considered and what should not be. Some astronomers feel that any object in the solar system large enough that gravity has shaped it into a sphere should be called a planet — but that would add not just 2003 UB313 to the planetary pantheon but also several asteroids and other Kuiper Belt objects.
Others would like to demote Pluto and count only eight planets. A third possibility is to arbitrarily call anything larger than Pluto a planet.

The debate has put off the naming of the body; 2003 UB313 is a temporary designation. If it is a planet, it would probably also be named after a Roman deity like the other planets.

"There is still a stalemate on the meaning of 'planet,'" said Brian G. Marsden, director of the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center, "and no progress on providing a name for 2003 UB313."

Its discoverer, Michael E. Brown of the California Institute of Technology, nicknamed it Xena, after the title character of a television series about the exploits of an ancient warrior woman. Dr. Brown has proposed a formal name, but has not revealed it publicly.

Dr. Bertoldi said he preferred keeping Pluto as a planet and bestowing planethood on 2003 UB313 as well. "As a personal opinion, I don't want to downgrade Pluto as not a planet," he said. "It would be impolite."

February 8th, 2006, 01:30 PM
I just merged numerous threads into one for Space Exploration. Let's try to keep all related stories together since the science, technology, and funding are often related.

February 8th, 2006, 01:36 PM
Planetary Society Charges Administration with Blurring its Vision for Space Exploration

Cites Cancelled Plans for a Europa and Other Science Missions

6 February, 2006

The NASA Budget released today shortchanges space science in order to fund 17 projected space shuttle flights. Despite recent spectacular results from NASA's science programs, this budget puts the brakes on their growth within the agency. It seriously damages the hugely productive and successful robotic exploration of our solar system and beyond.

According to this budget, flight projects that were already underway, such as the Space Interferometry Mission, will be delayed. Others, such as the Terrestrial Planet Finder and a mission to Jupiter's moon Europa (http://planetary.org/programs/projects/explore_europa/), will be deferred indefinitely. Furthermore, the new budget slashes funding for the fundamental space science that makes such missions possible and turns raw data into discoveries.

"Using money intended for science programs to fund continued operation of the shuttle is a serious setback to the U.S. space program," said Planetary Society President, Wesley T. Huntress, Jr. (http://www.planetary.org/about/wesley_huntress.html) "NASA is essentially transferring funds from a popular and highly productive program into one scheduled for termination."

The Planetary Society Board of Directors points out that the very first goal stated in the original Vision for Space Exploration announced by President Bush was to "implement a sustained and affordable human and robotic program to explore the solar system and beyond." The Vision then went on to state that NASA would "conduct robotic exploration across the solar system for scientific purposes and to support human exploration. In particular, explore Jupiter's moons, asteroids, and other bodies to search for evidence of life, to understand the history of the solar system, and to search for resources."

"Instead," said Society Executive Director Louis Friedman (http://www.planetary.org/about/louis_friedman.html), "NASA's robotic exploration program is being flat-lined, setting aside a mission to Europa to search for its ice-covered ocean and perhaps for life itself."

Both the National Academy of Sciences and internal NASA advisory committees have endorsed Europa exploration as the highest priority solar system objective after Mars. Last year, the U.S. Congress directed NASA to plan a fiscal year 2007 start on a Europa mission. If the proposed budget is adopted, that directive will be ignored, and no Europa mission will be planned.

The Society's disappointment with the NASA budget extends beyond the single item of omitting the Europa mission. Other major problems are:

Delay of the Space Interferometry Mission - a key effort contributing to the understanding of the universe and the search for other planetary systems;
Cancellation of the long-sought Terrestrial Planet Finder, a mission also supported in the original Vision for Space Exploration, to discover Earth-like planets and possible abodes for life around other stars;
Previously announced cancellation of the liquid oxygen/methane engine in the new exploration transportation system. The methane system was designed to test how a Mars ascent vehicle might be fueled on Mars, using in-situ resources. The proposed budget continues to downplay Mars as a goal for human exploration.Society Vice-President Bill Nye (http://www.planetary.org/about/bill_nye.html) stated, "After reaching the Moon, we kept on building big engineering projects for humans in space with the shuttle and space station. We got bogged down in Earth orbit; our exploration got stalled." Nye added that the Society strongly supports human exploration driven by science as defined in the Vision, stating, "To justify the cost and risk of human space flight, we need to be exploring other worlds and searching for extraterrestrial life."

Full funding of the shuttle was the result of political pressure from Congressional representatives from areas with vested interests in shuttle work, as well as international pressure from partners focused on completing the space station.

Friedman questioned the realism of the shuttle's even being able to do 17 more flights in any reasonable time period (before 2010) and said, "Investing in the shuttle is an investment in the past. NASA should be investing in the future."

The Surface of Jupiter's Moon Europa

Many scientists believe that Europa, with its suspected subterranean ocean, is the most likely object in the solar system to bear life. According to the proposed 2006 budget, a planned mission there will be put off indefinitely.

Copyright © 1993 – 2006 The Planetary Society.

February 8th, 2006, 02:11 PM
February 5, 2006

A Bold Plan to Go Where Men Have Gone Before

Interactive Feature
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2006/02/05/business/rocket.162.jpg (http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/business/20060205_ROCKET_FEATURE/blocker.html)


ASK Elon Musk what he wants to do with his life — after having amassed a $300 million fortune from the Internet — and the answer is surprising. At 34, he says he is too young to retire. Philanthropy is a bit staid. Starting another Web-based venture is hardly a challenge, not for a man who bought the idea for PayPal, built it up and then sold it to eBay for $1.5 billion.

In seeking a new direction in life that would be as ambitious as his dreams, Mr. Musk has picked a doozy: cheap and reliable access to space.

Making money from space is a road that several other self-made millionaires have traveled, from a Texas banker named Andrew Beal to one of Microsoft's co-founders, Paul G. Allen. There have been enough of them to warrant a mocking nickname: "thrillionaires." And so far their efforts have either ended in failure or have been just ventures in "space tourism" that brought test pilots to the fringe of space.

Mr. Musk wants more, and he has put $100 million of his fortune on the line to try to get it. His goal is to make a business out of inexpensively launching satellites into orbit. Inexpensive, of course, is a relative term, in a business where launchings of private commercial weather, telecommunications and other payloads start at $30 million and go up to $85 million or more.

Through his company, Space Explorations Technology, or SpaceX, Mr. Musk wants to send things to space for one-third of the going rate or less — even bringing down the price to $7 million for small payloads to low Earth orbit — with a series of simple rockets of his own design. His goal is to build a Volkswagen of the cosmos, a bare-bones and dirt-cheap rocket that will go into space and return, to be used again and again. Commercial launchings currently cost $5,000 to $10,000 per pound of payload; Mr. Musk says his simple rockets could do it for $1,000 a pound.

His first rocket, the Falcon 1, is a two-stage, liquid fuel design that is scheduled to lift off on Wednesday from a United States Army facility on Omelek Island in the Kwajalein Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands. On board will be a 43-pound satellite, the FalconSAT-2, which was designed by Air Force Academy cadets to study the ionosphere.

THE launching has been postponed twice for technical reasons, but if it succeeds, it will move SpaceX closer to filling some of the $200 million in firm launching orders already placed by the Pentagon, foreign governments and private companies.

Less clear is whether a success will also silence the many skeptics who have seen wealthy space dreamers fail in the past.

"This is an enormously difficult business to make money in," said John E. Pike, a space policy analyst at GlobalSecurity.Org, a nonprofit group in Alexandria, Va., that analyzes national security issues. "The best way to make a small fortune in space is to start out with a large one. New rocket science has a high mortality rate, and we don't know what he's got his hands on until he's flown it a half-dozen times."

Part dreamer and part realist, Mr. Musk says he was drawn to the project not only because he has long been fascinated by space — he has a degree in physics from the University of Pennsylvania — but also because he sees a market opportunity in America's declining share of the world's satellite-launching business.

In the commercial market, the United States' two big rocket giants, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, have been priced out by lower-cost competitors from Russia, Ukraine and France. Lockheed's Atlas 5 had only one commercial order in 2005, compared with 22 in 1998. Boeing has withdrawn its Delta 4 rocket from the commercial market and relies exclusively on business from the United States government.

At stake is a market that was worth $4 billion last year, when governments and businesses paid for 55 launchings, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Of those, 18 were commercial, with a value of $1 billion.

American companies compete for commercial orders only by teaming with foreign partners — often former cold-war foes. Lockheed has teamed up with Khrunichev State Research of Russia to form International Launch Services, which mainly uses Russia's Proton rockets. Boeing has joined with several nations to form a consortium called the Sea Launch; it uses the Ukrainian Zenit 3SL to put up commercial payloads.

Mr. Musk says he wants to develop an all-American option that will be price-competitive and break the duopoly of Lockheed and Boeing on contracts with the federal government. Ultimately, he wants to send people into space, to the moon and beyond.

"We have to do something dramatic to reduce the cost of getting to space," said Mr. Musk in an interview in his cubicle at SpaceX's offices here. "If we can get the cost low, we can extend life to another planet.

"I want to help make humanity a space-faring civilization," he said with disarming — or alarming — candor.

SpaceX's first effort, the Falcon 1, will not put anyone on the moon. It is designed to send small satellites — typically communications and scientific payloads weighing less than 1,000 pounds — into low orbit, which is up to 300 miles above the Earth. The two-stage Falcon 1 is designed to be mostly recyclable, with part of it falling into the ocean to be picked up and used again.

The Falcon 1 will charge $6.9 million a launching. It is intended to go head to head with the Pegasus rocket made by the Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., which charges $25 million to $30 million for the same launching, as well as rockets from such newcomers as India and Israel.

Next up are the Falcon 5, the same rocket with five engines, and the Falcon 9, with nine engines. The Falcon 9 would bring SpaceX into direct competition with Boeing's Delta 4 and Lockheed's Atlas 5 in the so-called heavy-lift market, in which the United States government is the main customer. A Falcon 5 plans to launch 8,000-pound payloads for $18 million, a third of the price of competitors. The Falcon 9, which will put 10 tons of payload as far as 22,000 miles into the sky, will cost $27 million per launching. The same launching by Lockheed or Boeing would be about $70 million to $80 million.

Expecting that it can compete in this market, SpaceX has sued Boeing and Lockheed in federal court in California, seeking to prevent them from combining their rocket units in a joint venture called the United Launch Alliance, which would have a lock on $32 billion in Air Force launchings through 2011.

"SpaceX has the potential of saving the U.S. government $1 billion a year," Mr. Musk said. "We are opposed to creating an entrenched monopoly with no realistic means for anyone to compete."

A native of Pretoria, South Africa, Mr. Musk moved by himself at age 17 to Canada, where he briefly attended Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. He later transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he received two undergraduate degrees — one in theoretical physics and the other in business from the Wharton School. He enrolled in the graduate physics program at Stanford in 1995 but dropped out within days to become an Internet entrepreneur.

His first big hit was Zip2, a Web-based ad company that he sold in 1999 for $307 million. (The New York Times Company was an investor in Zip2.) He moved on to another Web venture, involving electronic payments over the Internet — even though, as skeptics noted, he lacked experience in banking. That business ultimately became PayPal, which eBay bought for $1.5 billion in 2002.

By the time Mr. Musk was 30, he had amassed $300 million and was pondering his future.

His first thoughts were of philanthropy — and of space. He came up with the idea of "Mars Oasis," an effort to send a small greenhouse to Mars to gather scientific information and create excitement about space travel — or so Mr. Musk thought. His idea was quickly derailed by the extraordinary cost of getting to space, but that led him to wonder why technology had not brought down the cost of space exploration or led to more of it. And that led him to found SpaceX in 2002.

Every day since then, Mr. Musk has driven to a gritty industrial zone, where he puts in long days at SpaceX. Still, he allows himself a few perks of the newly rich: a big house in Los Angeles, a $1 million McLaren F1 sports car, and a Dassault Falcon 900 business jet, which he sometimes uses to ferry his staff to the Marshall Islands.

In some ways, SpaceX is a throwback to his dot-com days. Many of the 160 employees, including former engineers from Boeing and other aerospace companies, are on a first-name basis with him. One building houses a Ping-Pong table; another has a Segway. All employees — who call themselves "SpaceExers" — have received stock options that could make them millionaires someday. In one spot, a blue tarp covers a small piece of a rocket that Mr. Musk casually described as a "top secret" project and joked about putting a sign on it saying so. Indeed, it was a part for a launching scheduled by the Pentagon, which already has $100 million of SpaceX business lined up. He has another $100 million in launchings from the government of Malaysia, the Swedish Space Corporation and several American companies, including Bigelow Aerospace, which is planning to build a private space station.

TheFalcon 1 flight this week is for the Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon's research and development arm. "DARPA is excited about the launch," said Steven Walker, the DARPA manager for the Falcon program. "A successful launch demonstration will change the way we do space launch in this country."

WHAT sets SpaceX apart from other rocket makers is that the boldness of its ambition is matched by the modesty of its design. To meet his goal of a cheap and reliable rocket, Mr. Musk is producing a basic design, with fewer opportunities for systems to fail — even if it means some technical compromises with performance. "SpaceX is optimizing for simplicity rather than performance, and that's what sets it apart from the others," said Jeffrey Foust, an analyst at the Futron Corporation, an aerospace consulting firm. "When you have a limited number of things that could fail, you can increase a rocket's reliability."

Where most other rockets have multiple stages and multiple engines, the Falcon will have just two stages, each with one engine. Most of SpaceX's stages are designed to be reusable. Although fishing small used rockets out of a vast ocean can be difficult, Mr. Musk says that it is cheaper than building a new one every time.

"Throwing away multimillion-dollar rocket stages every flight," he said, "makes no more sense than chucking away a 747 after every flight."

Instead of buying engines from established suppliers, Mr. Musk has designed his own and built them in-house. The bigger first-stage engine, called the Merlin, is a model of 1960's technology, a simple "pintle" engine that has only one fuel injector rather than the costly showerhead of injectors used in most rockets.

"The Merlin is much more analogous to a truck engine than a sports car engine, which is how all other engines are designed," he said. "Instead of designing it to the bleeding edge of performance and drawing out every last ounce of thrust, we designed Merlin to be easy to build, easy to fix and robust. It can take a beating and still keep going."

AS such remarks make clear, economy is everything at SpaceX. While Boeing and Lockheed typically have more than 200 people in their mission control launching centers, SpaceX will have 23, in part because all the Falcon's manufacturing is done in the factory and nothing is left to be assembled at the launching pad. SpaceX plans some launchings for Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc, Calif., where it will move its mission control, which is now housed in a truck in SpaceX's parking lot.

SpaceX also has a 300-acre test site in McGregor, Tex., that it bought from Mr. Beal, the Texas banker, after he abandoned his private space-launching effort. He closed his company, Beal Aerospace, in 2000, complaining that Boeing, Lockheed and NASA had a lock on launchings and that small entrepreneurs could not compete against these government-subsidized ventures.

Mr. Beal and others have said that the biggest problems for space entrepreneurs are more political than technical. For Mr. Musk, wealth provides some protection — a point that even critics like Mr. Pike of GlobalSecurity.Org concede. "He's got the advantage of deep pockets," Mr. Pike said.

For the moment, Mr. Musk is bankrolling SpaceX alone. But if he can launch Falcon 1, he anticipates getting venture capital money along with more commercial orders.

"There is concern that the United States is losing its competitive edge in commercial space launches," said Mr. Foust, the Futron analyst. "If SpaceX can provide low-cost launches that are reliable, it could turn the tide. He's certainly got the mind-set, the team and the money."

Most other "thrillionaire" ventures revolve around space tourism and suborbital trips, which are less challenging and costly.

Mr. Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, provided $25 million to help bankroll SpaceShipOne, which was designed by the aeronautical engineer Burt Rutan and won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in October 2004 for being the first private manned spacecraft to reach suborbital space twice. Mr. Rutan is now designing a bigger version for Virgin Galactic, the space tourism venture of Sir Richard Branson, who founded Virgin Atlantic Airways.

The engines on Mr. Rutan's SpaceShipOne came from SpaceDev, founded by Jim Benson, a computer engineer who had started two software companies. SpaceDev plans to put satellites on Falcon 1 and is developing the "Dream Chaser" to pursue suborbital space tourism.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, has started Blue Origin to develop a three-person suborbital rocket. And John Carmack, developer of the Doom and Quake computer games, has founded Armadillo Aerospace near Dallas and has already put in $1 million to build a suborbital craft.

Space tourism presents no threat to Boeing or Lockheed, but Mr. Musk could. The two companies are quick to dismiss him. "Launching into space is an extremely challenging and complex business," said Dan Beck, a Boeing spokesman, adding: "For SpaceX to be considered a potential competitor they need to have a launch."

Tom Jurkowsky, a spokesman for Lockheed, had a similar view. "SpaceX needs to prove themselves," he said, "and thus far they have been unable to demonstrate that they are a competitor."

Still, some cheer on Mr. Musk.

"I'm particularly happy to see it happen," said Robert Sackheim, chief propulsion engineer at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and an early consultant to Mr. Musk. "Their engine design is less than perfect, but it is good enough. I think he is doing all the right things. This can be an incredibly important advance to the country."

February 8th, 2006, 03:20 PM
Many scientists believe that Europa, with its suspected subterranean ocean, is the most likely object in the solar system to bear life. According to the proposed 2006 budget, a planned mission there will be put off indefinitely.
Gotta preserve that tax cut at all costs. Let the next guy get blamed for profligacy.

March 2nd, 2006, 11:47 AM
New Budget Delays or Cancels Much-Promoted NASA Missions

By DENNIS OVERBYE (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/o/dennis_overbye/index.html?inline=nyt-per)
March 2, 2006

Some of the most highly promoted missions on NASA's (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/n/national_aeronautics_and_space_administration/index.html?inline=nyt-org) scientific agenda would be postponed indefinitely or perhaps even canceled under the agency's new budget, despite its administrator's vow to Congress six months ago that not "one thin dime" would be taken from space science to pay for President Bush's plan to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars.

The cuts come to $3 billion over the next five years, even as NASA's overall spending grows by 3.2 percent this year, to $16.8 billion.

Among the casualties in the budget, released last month, are efforts to look for habitable planets and perhaps life elsewhere in the galaxy, an investigation of the dark energy that seems to be ripping the universe apart, bringing a sample of Mars back to Earth and exploring for life under the ice of Jupiter's moon Europa — as well as numerous smaller programs and individual research projects that astronomers say are the wellsprings of new science and new scientists.

The agency's administrator, Michael D. Griffin, says NASA needs the money to keep the space shuttle fleet aloft, complete the International Space Station and build a new crew exploration vehicle to replace the shuttle.
That transition has produced an unexpected shortfall of money, but, Mr. Griffin told the House Science Committee last month, to postpone it would be more damaging than to put off some space science projects.

"We're delaying some missions," he told the committee, "but we're not abandoning them."

Yesterday, Mary Cleave, NASA's associate administrator for science, said she took Dr. Griffin at his word that the cuts were a one-time event. "There was no money available anyplace else," Dr. Cleave said. "We took a hit."

The programs could still be saved if Congress voted to increase the NASA budget. The agency has powerful allies in both parties, and some have expressed alarm at the proposed cuts, which will be discussed today at a hearing of the House Science Committee.

But at a time when fiscal conservatives are placing intense pressure on the Republican Congressional leadership to rein in government spending, programs that were previously considered sacrosanct are now vulnerable.

The cuts have alarmed and outraged many scientists, who have long feared that NASA will have to cannibalize its science program to carry out the president's vision of human spaceflight.

The new cuts, they say, will drive young people from the field, ending American domination of space science and perhaps ceding future discoveries to Europe.

"The bottom line: science at NASA is disappearing — fast," said Donald Lamb, an astrophysicist at the University of Chicago and chairman of a committee on space science for the Association of American Universities.

Representative Sherwood Boehlert, the New York Republican who is chairman of the Science Committee, called the new budget "bad for space science, worse for earth science," adding, "It basically cuts or de-emphasizes every forward-looking, truly futuristic program of the agency to fund operational and development programs to enable us to do what we are already doing or have done before."

As a result of the new cuts, NASA's expenditures for space and earth science will grow about 1 percent a year from now to 2011, far less than inflation, even as the Bush administration promotes its effort to bolster American competitiveness by doubling the research budgets at the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology over the next 10 years.

Senator Pete V. Domenici (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/d/pete_v_domenici/index.html?inline=nyt-per), Republican of New Mexico, and 56 other senators have introduced a bill that would mandate a 10 percent increase per year in NASA's science budget from now through 2013, among other things.

Astronomers and planetary researchers say space science has provided NASA's brightest and most inspirational moments in recent years: the landing on Saturn's moon Titan, the exploits of the Mars rovers and the stream of cosmic postcards from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Despite Dr. Griffin's assurances, they say that delaying space missions can be a death sentence if there is not money to continue developing technology and to keep teams together until the mission is ready to fly again.

That is the case, said Charles Beichman of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, with the Terrestrial Planet Finder missions, which are intended to produce images of Earth-like planets around other stars. They are the culmination of a line of missions devoted to hunting for planets around other stars and investigating if they are habitable or already harbor life, a goal, planetary scientists point out, that is explicitly endorsed in Mr. Bush's space vision.

"We're getting ready to fire all the people we've built up," said Dr. Beichman, who is the project scientist for the second of the two spacecraft missions, once scheduled for about 2020. Once those scientists have found other jobs, he said, they are not likely to come back.

"What I feel bad about is turning away a generation," Dr. Beichman said, explaining that planet-finding has been one of the hottest fields in science lately, attracting, in particular, young scientists into astronomy.
"We were the new kid on the block," he said.

Much of the concern among scientists is for the fate of smaller projects like the low-budget spacecraft called Explorers. Designed to provide relatively cheap and fast access to space, they are usually developed and managed by university groups. Dr. Lamb referred to them as "the crown jewels in NASA's science program."

In recent years, one such mission, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, produced exquisite baby pictures of the Big Bang, while another, the Swift satellite, has helped solve a 30-year-old mystery, linking distant explosions called gamma-ray bursts to the formation of black holes.

Explorers, Dr. Lamb said, are where graduate students and young professors get their first taste of space science. Until recently, about one mission was launched a year, but under the new plan, there will be none from 2009 to 2012. In a letter to Dr. Cleave last fall, 16 present and former Explorer scientists said, "Such a lengthy suspension would be a devastating blow to the program and the science community."

One author of the letter, Fiona Harrison, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology, said she first learned from a news conference that her own Explorer project, an X-ray satellite observatory called NuStar, was being cancelled after several years of development. Dr. Harrison said that she had been invited to reapply in 2008, but that in the meantime she had to tell her graduate student to find another thesis project.

Dr. Harrison said she was thinking of leaving the country or perhaps even the field of astrophysics.

In another move last month, NASA reduced this year's budget for individual research projects by 15 percent, retroactive to last fall, taking money from researchers and their institutions that had already begun work.

Dr. Cleave, the NASA associate administrator for science, acknowledged that she had been deluged with faxes and e-mail messages from scientists alarmed about these developments. She said the agency would be willing to adjust "the mix" in favor of more research and analysis, but added that something would have to give.

"I have my budget. I don't expect relief," she said. "There's no free lunch here."

Many scientists said the roots of their plight lay in the Bush administration's refusal to ask Congress for enough money to carry out the Moon-Mars program, announced with fanfare two years ago. But others said they were partly to blame as well for pursuing an overly ambitious agenda in the face of cold realities like the Columbia (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/c/columbia_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org) shuttle disaster and concern about the mounting federal deficit.

For example, the James Webb Space Telescope — the designated successor to the Hubble telescope, designed to see back in time and space within a whisper of the Big Bang — was ranked first on the astronomers' wish list in an influential National Academy of Sciences survey in 2000. But delays and technical problems have almost doubled its cost, to more than $4.5 billion, and postponed its launching by two years, to 2013. Meanwhile, planned repairs to the Hubble telescope will cost some $300 million.

Once the Webb and Hubble telescopes, the two highest priorities, are included, said John Mather, an astronomer at the Goddard Space Flight Center and project scientist for the Webb telescope, "almost everything else that isn't started had to be stopped."

"People assume that when Congress votes for something they send extra money," Mr. Mather said. "They don't."

Dr. Griffin and his colleagues, the scientists agree, have tough choices to make, but so far, the space scientists say, the choices have been made in a vacuum, without input from the community most affected, namely them.

Last year NASA dismantled a longstanding network of scientific advisory committees, and while a new network is in the works, it is not yet in place.

As a result, "scientists feel very much left out of this process," Dr. Beichman said. "You could have involved the community and said, 'Here's what we have to do.' "

He added, "In the end, even scientists can be responsible."


An X-ray satellite observatory called NuStar is being cancelled after several years of development. It is shown here in an artist's rendering.

Copyright 2006 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

March 2nd, 2006, 12:44 PM
Finding life on Europa might be too confusing for religious zealots to handle.

March 2nd, 2006, 01:06 PM
Another Bush failure: Mission to Mars

"With the experience and knowledge gained on the moon, we will then be ready to take the next steps of space exploration -- human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond"

GWB, January 2004


March 9th, 2006, 01:22 PM

Thu Mar 09 2006 11:21:33 ET



[Press release set for 2 PM ET release]

NASA's Cassini spacecraft may have found evidence of liquid water reservoirs that erupt in Yellowstone-like geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus. The rare occurrence of liquid water so near the surface raises many new questions about the mysterious moon.

"We realize that this is a radical conclusion - that we may have evidence for liquid water within a body so small and so cold," said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. "However, if we are right, we have significantly broadened the diversity of solar system environments where we might possibly have conditions suitable for living organisms."

High-resolution Cassini images show icy jets and towering plumes ejecting huge quantities of particles at high speed. Scientists examined several models to explain the process. They ruled out the idea the particles are produced or blown off the moon's surface by vapor created when warm water ice converts to a gas. Instead, scientists have found evidence for a much more exciting possibility. The jets might be erupting from near-surface pockets of liquid water above 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), like cold versions of the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone.
"We previously knew of at most three places where active volcanism exists: Jupiter's moon Io, Earth, and possibly Neptune's moon Triton. Cassini changed all that, making Enceladus the latest member of this very exclusive club, and one of the most exciting places in the solar system," said John Spencer, Cassini scientist, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder.

"Other moons in the solar system have liquid-water oceans covered by kilometers of icy crust," said Andrew Ingersoll, imaging team member and atmospheric scientist at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. "What's different here is that pockets of liquid water may be no more than tens of meters below the surface."

"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?

In the spring of 2008, scientists will get another chance to look at Enceladus when Cassini flies within 350 kilometers (approximately 220 miles), but much work remains after the spacecraft's four-year prime mission is over.

"There's no question, along with the moon Titan, Enceladus should be a very high priority for us. Saturn has given us two exciting worlds to explore," said Jonathan Lunine, Cassini interdisciplinary scientist, University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz.

Mission scientists report these and other Enceladus findings in this week's issue of Science.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology

March 9th, 2006, 01:59 PM
Scientists Find Evidence of Water on Saturn Moon

March 9, 2006
Filed at 1:38 p.m. ET


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Cassini spacecraft has found evidence of liquid water spewing from geysers on one of Saturn's icy moons, raising the tantalizing possibility that the celestial object harbors life.

The surprising discovery excited some scientists, who say the Saturn moon, Enceladus, should be added to the short list of places within the solar system most likely to have extraterrestrial life.

Recent high-resolution images snapped by the orbiting Cassini confirmed the eruption of icy jets and giant water vapor plumes from geysers resembling frozen Old Faithfuls at Enceladus' south pole.

''We have the smoking gun'' that proves the existence of water, said Carolyn Porco, a Cassini imaging scientist from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

If Enceladus does harbor life, it probably consists of microbes or other primitive organisms capable of living in extreme conditions, scientists say.
The findings were published in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

David Morrison, a senior scientist at NASA's (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/n/national_aeronautics_and_space_administration/index.html?inline=nyt-org) Astrobiology Institute, cautioned against rushing to judgment about whether the tiny moon could support life.

Scientists generally agree habitats need several ingredients for life to emerge, including water, a stable heat source and the right chemical recipe.

''It's certainly interesting, but I don't see how much more you can say beyond that,'' Morrison said.

Scientists believe Mars and Jupiter's icy moons might have -- or once had -- conditions hospitable to life.

Saturn is around 800 million miles from Earth. Enceladus measures 314 miles across and is the shiniest object in the solar system.

It was long thought to be cold and still. But scientists now believe it is a geologically active moon that possesses an unusually warm south pole.

The water is believed to vent from fissures in the south pole. Porco said the venting has probably been going on for at least several thousand years, potentially providing a lasting heat source.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a joint NASA-European Space Agency project. The spacecraft was launched in 1997 and went into orbit around Saturn in 2004, exploring its spectacular rings and many moons. Cassini made three flybys of Enceladus last year and is expected to fly within 220 miles of the moon again in 2008.

On the Net: Cassini mission: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.cfm (http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.cfm)

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press (http://www.ap.org/)

March 9th, 2006, 02:05 PM
NASA's Cassini Discovers Potential Liquid Water on Enceladus


The enhanced color view of Enceladus seen here is largely of the southern
hemisphere and includes the south polar terrain at the bottom of the image.


NASA's Cassini spacecraft may have found evidence of liquid water reservoirs that erupt in Yellowstone-like geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus. The rare occurrence of liquid water so near the surface raises many new questions about the mysterious moon.

And: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/image-details.cfm?imageID=2027


Spray Above Enceladus III
March 9, 2006

Plumes of icy material extend above the southern polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus as imaged by the Cassini spacecraft in February 2005. The monochrome view is presented along with a color-coded version on the right. The latter reveals a fainter and much more extended plume component.

Images like these are being analyzed by scientists as they seek to explain the processes that could be producing such incredible features. As reported in the journal Science on March 10, 2006, imaging scientists believe that the plumes are geysers erupting from pressurized subsurface reservoirs of liquid water above 273 degrees Kelvin (0 degrees Celsius). Another plume view, (PIA07801), was taken one month earlier and looks broadside at the moon's prominent "tiger stripe" fractures. In the January view, the plume appears to have a single component. This (February) view looks along the tiger stripe fractures and reveals both a large and a small component to the plume; the smaller, fainter component is separated from the main plume by about 100 kilometers (60 miles). See PIA06247 for a view of the tiger stripe features.

August 24th, 2006, 12:47 PM
Astronomers Decide Pluto Is Not a Planet


August 24, 2006

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) -- Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.

After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is -- and isn't -- a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one.

Although astronomers applauded after the vote, Jocelyn Bell Burnell -- a specialist in neutron stars from Northern Ireland who oversaw the proceedings -- urged those who might be ''quite disappointed'' to look on the bright side.

''It could be argued that we are creating an umbrella called 'planet' under which the dwarf planets exist,'' she said, drawing laughter by waving a stuffed Pluto of Walt Disney fame beneath a real umbrella.

''Many more Plutos wait to be discovered,'' added Richard Binzel, a professor of planetary science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The decision by the prestigious international group spells out the basic tests that celestial objects will have to meet before they can be considered for admission to the elite cosmic club.

For now, membership will be restricted to the eight ''classical'' planets in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Much-maligned Pluto doesn't make the grade under the new rules for a planet: ''a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.''
Pluto is automatically disqualified because its oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune's.

Instead, it will be reclassified in a new category of ''dwarf planets,'' similar to what long have been termed ''minor planets.'' The definition also lays out a third class of lesser objects that orbit the sun -- ''small solar system bodies,'' a term that will apply to numerous asteroids, comets and other natural satellites.

Experts said there could be dozens of dwarf planets catalogued across the solar system in the next few years.

NASA (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/n/national_aeronautics_and_space_administration/index.html?inline=nyt-org) said Thursday that Pluto's demotion would not affect its US$700 million New Horizons spacecraft mission, which earlier this year began a 9 1/2-year journey to the oddball object to unearth more of its secrets.

''We will continue pursuing exploration of the most scientifically interesting objects in the solar system, regardless of how they are categorized,'' Paul Hertz, chief scientist for the science mission directorate, said in a statement.

The decision on Pluto at a conference of 2,500 astronomers from 75 countries was a dramatic shift from just a week ago, when the group's leaders floated a proposal that would have reaffirmed Pluto's planetary status and made planets of its largest moon and two other objects.

That plan proved highly unpopular, splitting astronomers into factions and triggering days of sometimes combative debate that led to Pluto's undoing. In the end, only about 300 astronomers cast ballots.

Now, two of the objects that at one point were cruising toward possible full-fledged planethood will join Pluto as dwarfs: the asteroid Ceres, which was a planet in the 1800s before it got demoted, and 2003 UB313, an icy object slightly larger than Pluto whose discoverer, Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology, has nicknamed Xena.

Charon, the largest of Pluto's three moons, is no longer under consideration for any special designation.

Brown, who watched the proceedings from Cal Tech, took Thursday's vote in stride -- even though his discovery won't be christened a planet.
''UB313 is the largest dwarf planet. That's kind of cool,'' he said.

August 24th, 2006, 01:57 PM
This will be devastating to Plutonian real-estate values.

August 24th, 2006, 02:05 PM
It has always been a cold market Zip, but just wait until next (p) year!!!!!

August 24th, 2006, 06:18 PM
Our teachers lied! All my life they've been telling me Pluto is a planet!

What pro-Pluto agenda were they pushing??????!

August 25th, 2006, 09:08 AM
pro-Pluto agenda

Say THAT three times fast!!!

August 25th, 2006, 09:47 AM
Pro-pluto Agenda!
Phlo-phluto Agenda!
Flo-footo Ageda!

August 25th, 2006, 12:07 PM
Pro-pluto Agenda!
Phlo-phluto Agenda!
Flo-footo Ageda!

You have Ageda?

You should sit down a bit, relax!

October 14th, 2006, 10:42 AM
Discoveries in Saturn's Dark

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
In this unique view, the Cassini orbiter observed Saturn while its cameras were hidden in the planet's shadow.

skytonight.com/news (http://skytonight.com/news/home/4382256.html)
by David Tytell
October 12, 2006

It's amazing what a change of perspective can do. Just ask astronomers working with NASA's Cassini spacecraft. On September 15th, the Saturn orbiter found itself in a rare position deep within a Saturnian eclipse. For about 12 hours the craft observed the ringed world from within the planet's shadow. In the unique image at right, the Sun is directly behind Saturn and the rings shine in scattered, rather than reflected, light. From this point of view small particles in the rings appear especially bright, much the way that cobwebs look brighter when lit from behind.

Such a perspective reveals many new things. First off, the team uncovered two new rings made of tiny dust particles, and they confirmed the existence of a couple others. Second, rings and moons are intertwined. "When you see a ring, there is likely to be a satellite," says Joe Burns (Cornell University). Sure enough, one of the finds is associated with the moonlets Janus and Epimetheus, and a second overlies the orbit of a tiny moon called Pallene.

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
The spot at the top left is a zoomed-in view of our home.
When Cassini shot this picture of Earth, the Atlantic Ocean and
the western coast of north Africa were facing Saturn.

Two other new rings were spotted inside the dark, narrow Cassini Division, though the moonlets associated with them have thus far avoided detection. "Maybe they formed when a moon broke apart," says Burns, speculating on where the missing satellites might be.

The image also contains two tantalizing treats. Upon closer inspection one sees geysers spewing from the icy moon Enceladus. These cyrovolcanic eruptions supply the material of the E ring. And in the top-left corner of the view is a special little dot: Earth shining in the background.

In other ring news, Cassini scientist Matt Hedman (Cornell University) announced a facinating find concerning Saturn's D ring, the innermost. He determined the three-dimensional shape of the ring and found that it isn't flat like the rest. In fact it appears "vertically corrugated like a tin roof." The bands within it are spaced 30 kilometers apart. Hedman compared these findings to images taken from the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995, and found that 11 years ago, the same bands were spaced 60 kilometers apart.

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
This model shows to scale the structure of the waves in Saturn's D ring.
The corrugated shape has bands that are currently 30 kilometers apart.

When he combined the rate at which the spacing is changing along with the vertical structure of the ring, Hedman came up with an amazing result: "We have evidence that the D ring was recently disrupted by impact. Perhaps a comet or meteorite passed through the ring system," he says. Calculating backward in time, in 1984 something plowed through the D ring and "gave it some angular momentum, lifting it out of the plane." According to Hedman's models, it only takes a body a few meters across to kick up enough dust to match what we see.


January 29th, 2007, 10:37 PM
NASA: Hubble Space Telecope's Main Camera Offline, Some Science Lost

Tariq Malik
Staff Writer
SPACE.comMon Jan 29, 6:15 PM ET

This story was updated 5:45 p.m. EST.

The Hubble Space Telescope's primary camera is offline, with some science capabilities likely lost for good, NASA officials said Monday.

An electrical short in the backup system for Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) pushed the space telescope into a protective "safe mode" over the weekend and prompted the formation of an Anomaly Investigation Board on Monday, NASA officials said.

The incident, the third since June to hobble Hubble's ACS camera, occurred at 7:34 a.m. EST (1234 GMT) on Jan. 27. Engineers managed to switch the space telescope back to normal operations, with the exception of the ACS instrument, by Sunday and hope to resume science observations with the observatory's remaining instruments later this week.

NASA has convened an Anomaly Review Board to go over Hubble's latest malfunction, the results of which are expected to be presented by March 2.

"Obviously, we are very disappointed by this latest event because of the popularity of the ACS instrument with astronomers," NASA's Preston Burch, Hubble program manager at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Maryland, told reporters today in a teleconference.

It was Hubble's ACS camera's wide field channel, for example, that allowed astronomers to generate Hubble's Ultra Deep Field - the deepest view into the universe to date. But that ACS channel, and a high-resolution channel used to study stars surrounded by planet-forming material, are likely lost since the latest glitch has cut off power to their systems, Hubble managers said.

"We're not optimistic at all that those will be restored," said David Leckrone, NASA's senior project scientist for Hubble at the GSFC. "The saving grace here is that we have a superb new wide field camera coming along that was originally designed, in fact, to be a back up for ACS in case ACS failed. It was designed to work in tandem with ACS if [it] was full alive."

That new camera - known as Wide Field Camera 3 - is due to be installed at Hubble during NASA's last space shuttle flight to the observatory in September 2008.

Hubble engineers hope they will be able to restore partial ACS science capability with its third feature - the Solar Blind channel used recently to study auroras on Jupiter and Saturn - by February to aid NASA's New Horizons mission, which is due to make a close flyby of Jupiter on Feb. 28.

"As soon as we're confident that everyone has done their homework on that, we could very have the Solar Blind operating by the end of February," Burch said. "That would be the hope."

Hubble's other, non-ACS instruments - the Field Planetary Camera 2, Near Infrared Camera Multi-Object Spectrograph, and the Fine Guidance Sensors - are unaffected by the recent glitch.

Hubble's camera troubles

Hubble's ACS camera has been working on its backup, or Side B, system since the instrument's primary Side A electronics encountered a malfunction in June 2006. An electronics hiccup a few months later in September again knocked the camera offline, but the system recovered a short time later.

NASA Hubble managers said the most recent glitch is a completely isolated incident and is not connected to the earlier problems.

"It's very different," Burch said, adding that the current anomaly's signature is very different from those seen last year.

Hubble managers have also prepared about six observation surveys that do not require the ACS camera just in case the finicky instrument went offline. Those research projects will now be implemented while the camera is unavailable.

The ACS anomaly comes just two months before the instrument's projected five-year warranty expired, Hubble managers said. Spacewalking astronauts installed the camera on March 7, 2002 during NASA's STS-109 mission aboard the Columbia orbiter. Launched in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has been billed as one of the most valuable astronomical instruments of all time and is the product of a partnership between NASA and the European Space Agency.

"It's certainly been an astounding success as an instrument," Rick Howard, acting director of NASA's Astrophysics Division at NASA's headquarters in Washington, D.C., adding that the camera met about all of its initial science objectives before its recent failure.

Because of the ACS camera's hard-to-reach location on Hubble and the already packed five-spacewalk schedule of NASA's final servicing mission to Hubble - Servicing Mission 4 slated to launch in September 2008 - adding a new and complicated repair job to the spaceflight is not an attractive option, Burch said.

"Servicing Mission 4 is a very full mission with installing new batteries and gyroscopes, installing one of the fine guidance sensors and two new instruments," Burch said, adding that the initial plan carries no ACS-related additions to the upcoming Hubble overhaul.

Leckrone said that the new instruments to be grafted into Hubble during Servicing Mission 4 (SM-4) will almost completely restore the telescope's lost ACS abilities, though the new Wide Field Camera 3 will take longer to generate its predecessor's stunning views of the universe.

"The successful completion of SM-4 and insertion of Wide Field Camera 3 will take us fully back to not only where we are now, but where we want [Hubble] to be in the future," Leckrone said.

Copyright © 2007 SPACE.com.

Spiral galaxy NGC 4414, 60 million light-years from Earth, taken by Hubble in 1999.


February 28th, 2007, 05:26 PM
February 28, 2007

Pluto-Bound New Horizons Spacecraft Gets a Boost from Jupiter



NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft successfully completed a flyby of Jupiter early this morning, using the massive planet’s gravity to pick up speed on its 3-billion mile voyage to Pluto and the unexplored Kuiper Belt region beyond.
“We’re on our way to Pluto,” says New Horizons Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. “The swingby was a success; the spacecraft is on course and performed just as we expected.”

Little Red Spot

New Horizons came within 1.4 million miles (2.3 million kilometers) of Jupiter at 12:43 a.m. EST, threading an “aim point” that puts it on target to reach the Pluto system in July 2015. During closest approach the spacecraft was out of touch with Earth – busily gathering science data on the giant planet, its moons and atmosphere – but by 11:55 a.m. EST mission operators at APL had established contact with New Horizons through NASA’s Deep Space Network and confirmed its health and status.


The fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons is gaining nearly 9,000 miles per hour (14,000 kilometers per hour) from Jupiter’s gravity – half the speed of a space shuttle in orbit – accelerating past 52,000 mph (83,600 km/h) away from the Sun. New Horizons has covered approximately 500 million miles (800 million kilometers) since launch in January 2006, and reached Jupiter quicker than the seven previous spacecraft to visit the solar system’s largest planet. Today it raced through an aim point just 500 miles (800 kilometers) across – the equivalent of a skeet shooter in Washington hitting a target in Baltimore on the first try.

New Horizons has been running through an intense six-month systems check that will include more than 700 science observations of the Jupiter system by the end of June. More than half of those observations are taking place this week, including scans of Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere, measurements of its magnetic cocoon (called the magnetosphere), surveys of its delicate rings, maps of the composition and topography of the large moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, and a detailed look at volcanic activity on Io. While much of the close-in science data will be sent back to Earth during the coming weeks, the team will download a sampling of images this week to verify New Horizons’ performance.

The outbound leg of New Horizons’ journey includes the first-ever trip down the long "tail" of Jupiter's magnetosphere, a wide stream of charged particles that extends more than 100 million miles beyond the planet. And telescopes on and above Earth – from amateur astronomers’ backyard telescopes, to the giant Keck telescope in Hawaii, to the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-Ray Observatory and others – are turning to Jupiter as New Horizons flies by, ready to provide global context to the close-up data New Horizons gathers.

“We designed the entire Jupiter encounter to be a tough test for the mission team and our spacecraft, and we’re passing the test,” says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. “We’re not only learning what we can expect from the spacecraft when we visit Pluto in eight years, we’re already getting some stunning science results at Jupiter – and there’s more to come.”

For the latest news and images, visit http://pluto.jhuapl.edu (http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/) or www.nasa.gov/newhorizons/ (http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons/).

New Horizons is the first mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program of medium-class spacecraft exploration projects. Stern leads the mission and science team as principal investigator; APL manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, and designed, built and operates the spacecraft. The mission team also includes KinetX Inc. (navigation support), Ball Aerospace Corporation, the Boeing Company, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Stanford University, Lockheed Martin Corporation, University of Colorado, the U.S. Department of Energy, and a number of other firms, NASA centers, and university partners.

March 15th, 2007, 08:14 AM
Video: Moon transit across the Sun

On Feb. 25, 2007 there was another kind of eclipse of the Moon when it crossed the face of the Sun - but it could not be seen from Earth. This sight was visible only from the STEREO-B spacecraft in its orbit about the sun, trailing behind the Earth. NASA's STEREO mission consists of two spacecraft launched in October, 2006 to study solar storms. The transit started at 1:56 am EST and continued for 12 hours until 1:57 pm EST. STEREO-B is currently about one million miles from the Earth, 4.4 times farther away from the Moon than we are on Earth. As a result, the Moon will appear 4.4 times smaller than what we are used to. This is still, however, much larger than, say, the planet Venus appeared when in transited the Sun as seen from Earth in 2004. This alignment of STEREO-B and the Moon was not just due to luck. It was arranged with a small tweak to STEREO-B's orbit last December. The transit is quite useful to STEREO scientists for measuring the focus and the amount of scattered light in the STEREO imagers and for determining the pointing of the STEREO coronagraphs. The Sun as it appears in these the images and each frame of the movie is a composite of nearly simultaneous images in four different wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light that were separated into color channels and then recombined with some level of transparency for each.


May 19th, 2007, 02:21 PM
Ashes of "Star Trek"s Scotty found after space ride

Fri May 18, 4:44 PM ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - They beamed him up -- and on Friday, after a three-week search, they found the rocket that had carried ashes of "Star Trek" actor James Doohan briefly into space.

The remains of Doohan, whose "Star Trek" character Scotty inspired the television catch phrase "Beam me up, Scotty," were blasted off to the edge of space from New Mexico on April 29, two years after his death at the age of 85.

The payload also included ashes of astronaut Gordon Cooper, who first went into space in 1963, and another 200 people.

But the UP Aerospace Spaceloft XL rocket carrying the capsules with the ashes back to Earth got lost in rugged terrain and the search for it was hampered by bad weather.

"Now we can all say 'mission accomplished,"' Rick Homans, executive director of New Mexico's Spaceport Authority, said on Friday.

Organizers said the rocket and the individual capsules containing the ashes were in good condition and would be mounted on plaques and returned to the families.

Canadian-born Doohan played the starship Enterprise's chief engineer Montgomery Scott in the original 1966-1969 "Star Trek" television series.

Houston-based Space Services Inc. Space Services Inc. charges $495 to send a portion of a person's ashes into suborbital space and return it to Earth.

Copyright 2007 Reuters.

August 22nd, 2007, 09:22 AM
My favorite space probe is New Horizons, which is going to Pluto. It should get there in 2015. Only eight years left!


August 23rd, 2007, 10:18 AM
One of the great series of images from New Horizons (http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/):

Jupiter's moon Io with erupting Tvashtar Volcano


August 23rd, 2007, 10:22 AM
Actually, that wasn't from New Horizons, that was from the security cam of the new Starbucks they are opening on Ganymede...

September 26th, 2007, 01:39 PM
I love your new avatar. Lofter's too.:)

The shuttle program seems riddled with problems.

October 1st, 2007, 10:01 AM
The space probe Dawn blasted off on Thursday. It's heading to the asteroids Vesta and Ceres. It's packing an ion engine that will allow it to go from Vesta to Ceres.


October 20th, 2007, 08:59 PM
Some recent photos from the Cassini spacecraft currently orbiting Saturn:

Jet Blue – Enceladus

Image Description (http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/image-details.cfm?imageID=2779)

The Other Side of Iapetus

Image Description (http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/moons/images/PIA08384-br500.jpg)

Titan Beyond the Rings

Image Description (http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/image-details.cfm?imageID=2794)

Latest Press images ( http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/index.cfm?all=true&startImage=1)

JPL Homepage ( http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/index.cfm)

January 5th, 2008, 01:13 AM
January 5, 2008

Donors Bring Big Telescope a Step Closer

Todd Mason Productions/LSST Corporation
A rendering of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which,
when ready in 2014, promises to offer “the biggest movie ever.”


A project to build a digital camera of cosmic dimensions on a mountaintop in Chile has received a $30 million boost from a pair of software moguls and philanthropists.

Charles Simonyi, formerly of Microsoft and now chief executive of Intentional Software, said Thursday that he would contribute $20 million to the project, known as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, or L.S.S.T. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, agreed to give $10 million.

When completed in 2014, the telescope — 330 inches in diameter and armed with a three-billion-pixel detector — will survey the entire night sky visible from its intended perch on Cerro Pachón in northern Chile once every three nights, allowing astronomers to monitor changes in stars and the motions of asteroids and everything else that moves in the sky. It will also allow researchers to map dark matter and the effects of the mysterious dark energy that is speeding the universe’s expansion.

“It’ll be a form of celestial cinematography, the biggest movie ever,” said J. Anthony Tyson of the University of California, Davis, a physicist who leads a multinational team of 22 universities, observatories and other institutions, including Google, planning to build the telescope.

The resulting data, amounting to 30 terabytes each night — slightly less than half the information content of the Library of Congress — will be immediately available to the astronomical community and the public, Dr. Tyson said, allowing anybody who is interested to “mine the sky.”

Referring to other efforts to erect giant telescopes on Earth, Dr. Simonyi said in an e-mail message, “There are many assets — current and planned — that look deep and look far, but the L.S.S.T. is unique in its ability to gather very large amounts of real-time data, which is necessary for observing our dynamic universe.”

Dr. Tyson said the gifts from Dr. Simonyi and Mr. Gates would keep the ambitious project on track by allowing astronomers to begin fabricating the mirrors for the telescope, a five-year job, at the Mirror Laboratory of the University of Arizona.

The new development “adds a lot of momentum at a time that is key,” he said.

The astronomers are hoping for a grant of about $389 million from the National Science Foundation to meet most expenses.

Dr. Simonyi, a computer scientist, was born in Budapest in 1948 and got his Ph.D. from Stanford before joining Microsoft. He made news last April when he took a two-week, $20 million trip to the International Space Station as a tourist, carrying along takeout from Martha Stewart and Alain Ducasse.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

January 16th, 2008, 11:18 AM

It's Mercury!

larger image (http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/gallery/sciencePhotos/pics/Prockter07.jpg)

The Messenger spacecraft's first look at Mercury's previously unseen side.

Messenger was launched in 2004 and is to begin orbiting Mercury in 2011. But on it's way it needs many gravity assists from the other inner planets. It flew by Earth twice, Venus twice, and this is the first of three passes of Mercury before orbit insertion.

Messenger (http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/mer_flyby1.html) homepage

April 19th, 2008, 12:04 AM
Earthrise on the moon

This image is a still from a high-definition April 5, 2007
video of the Earth rising above the moon as seen by
Japan's Kaguya lunar orbiter. The probe was about
236,121 miles (380,000 km) away from Earth at the time.
Credit: JAXA/NHK.

Video clip of the sequence (http://www.space.com/php/video/player.php?video_id=080414-Kaguya) (after a commercial)

It's really cool. :)

April 19th, 2008, 12:17 AM
The dead surface of the moon, contrasted with the living Earth, has a sobering effect.
What the hell are we doing down here, killing everything...

April 21st, 2008, 10:47 PM

I love this image - beautiful, so is the picture of Earth from the Moon. I've always been fascinated by astronomy. A couple of years ago i bought a telescope - by programming the location / date / time its supposed to locate any object you want to look at, but so far all i've found is the Moon - i can't seem to get it to work properly. Light pollution is a real problem these days, unless you live out in the middle of nowhere, its difficult to see anything clearly.

The Cassini-Huygens website if amazing - i'll download some images from it this week.

June 19th, 2008, 10:56 PM
By Ker Than,
Posted: 2008-06-19 17:56:30
Filed Under: Science News (http://news.aol.com/science)
http://cdn.digitalcity.com/rl_live_science/live-science-logo-215.gif (http://www.livescience.com/)


(June 19) - An icy, unknown world might lurk in the distant reaches of our solar system beyond the orbit of Pluto, according to a new computer model.

The hidden world -- thought to be much bigger than Pluto based on the model -- could explain unusual features of the Kuiper Belt, a region of space beyond Neptune littered with icy and rocky bodies. Its existence would satisfy the long-held hopes and hypotheses for a "Planet X" envisioned by scientists and sci-fi buffs alike.

"Although the search for a distant planet in the solar system is old, it is far from over," said study team member Patryk Lykawka of Kobe University in Japan.

The model, created by Lykawka and Kobe University colleague Tadashi Mukai, is detailed in a recent issue of Astrophysical Journal.

If the new world is confirmed, it would not be technically a planet. Under a controversial new definition adopted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) last week, it would instead be the largest known "plutoid."

The Kuiper Belt contains many peculiar features that can't be explained by standard solar system models. One is the highly irregular orbits of some of the belt's members.

The most famous is Sedna, a rocky object located three times farther from the sun than Pluto. Sedna takes 12,000 years to travel once around the Sun, and its orbit ranges from 80 to 100 astronomical units (AU). One AU is equal to the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

According to the model, Sedna and other Kuiper Belt oddities could be explained by a world 30 to 70 percent as massive as Earth orbiting between 100 AU and 200 AU from the sun.

At that distance, any water on the world's surface would be completely frozen. However, it might support a subsurface ocean like those suspected to exist on the moons Titan and Enceladus, said Mark Sykes, director of the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona.

"The interesting thing for me is the suggestion of the kinds of very interesting objects that may yet await discovery in the outer solar system," said Sykes, who was not involved in the study. "We are still scratching the edges of that region of the solar system, and I expect many surprises await us with the future deeper surveys."

June 20th, 2008, 11:10 PM
Seeing the Earthrise pic, I had to post this. Anyone remember Deep Impact? Its still out there... here's a fun pic - the moon eclipsing the Earth (as seen from space):


Website here - http://epoxi.umd.edu/4gallery/Earth-Moon.shtml

June 21st, 2008, 12:57 PM
Meteorite could hold solar clues

Dr Caroline Smith unveils the Ivuna meteorite

A rare type of meteorite that could hold clues to the birth of our Solar System has been bought by London's Natural History Museum.

The Ivuna meteorite, obtained from a US private collection, has the same chemical make-up from which the Solar System formed 4.5 billion years ago.

It landed in Tanzania in 1938 as one 705g stone, since split into samples.

Pieces from the UK sample, the largest in any public collection in the world, will be removed for study.

Most Ivuna samples are held in private collections, or by the Tanzanian government.

It's a particularly important specimen to science because it's been so well preserved
Dr Caroline Smith,
Natural History Museum

Ivuna's chemical make-up, which matches the Sun, is extremely rare - just nine of the 35,000 known meteorites, or 0.03%, have this solar composition.

Dr Caroline Smith, meteorite curator at the Natural History Museum (NHM), told BBC News: "These types of meteorite are very susceptible to alteration on Earth. Changes in humidity, for example, can change their composition.

"But this meteorite is important as it fell relatively recently and has been kept under nitrogen in a sealed environment for the last two or three decades.

"It's a particularly important specimen to science because it's been so well preserved. We're all incredibly excited about it because it's so pristine."

Monica Grady, professor of planetary sciences at the Open University in Milton Keynes, commented: "This is fantastic for the UK's meteorite experts. This material represents the crumbs from the foundation of the Solar System. It's an unbelievable opportunity to study it in close-up.

"The museum has been very bold in acquiring it."

One question that Ivuna could help answer is how the chemical building blocks for life came to Earth.

Important components of so-called pre-genetic material, the amino acids b-alanine and glycine, were found in Ivuna in a 2001 study.

Last week, scientists at Imperial College London confirmed that a meteorite called Murchison contained extra-terrestrial molecules that were the precursors to DNA and RNA.

In addition to being used for research, Ivuna will be a star specimen in a new meteorites gallery, which the NHM is planning for the near future.

"The plan is to take the meteorite to Nasa's Johnson Space Center in Houston, where we'll have a 20g piece taken off and that will be sub-divided into two 10g pieces," Dr Smith explained.

"One piece will be put to one side. The other will be divided into 200mg allocations - less than the size of your fingernail - for researchers to study."

August 19th, 2008, 03:24 PM
Cassini Pinpoints Source of Jets on Saturn's Moon Enceladus

FULL STORY. (http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/press-release-details.cfm?newsID=864)



One highly anticipated result of this flyby was to pinpoint previously identified source locations for the jets that blast icy particles, water vapor and trace organics into space.


Scientists are using these new images to study geologic activity associated with the sulci, and effects on the surrounding terrain. This information, coupled with observations by Cassini's other instruments, may answer the question of whether reservoirs of liquid water exist beneath the surface.

Cassini website (http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.cfm)

August 19th, 2008, 06:37 PM
My new word for today: SULCUS (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sulcus) (also Sulcus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulcus_(anatomy)))

August 20th, 2008, 01:48 PM
My new word for today: SULCUS (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sulcus) (also Sulcus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulcus_(anatomy)))

My mind kept reading it as Succubus for some reason! ;)

October 3rd, 2008, 10:38 PM

updated 10:12 a.m. EDT, Fri October 3, 2008

'Space elevator' would take humans into orbit

Lift to space: This is a NASA interpretation of what a space elevator may look like.

By Mike Steere

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A new space race is officially under way, and this one should have the sci-fi geeks salivating.

The project is a "space elevator," and some experts now believe that the concept is well within the bounds of possibility -- maybe even within our lifetimes.

A conference discussing developments in space elevator concepts is being held in Japan in November, and hundreds of engineers and scientists from Asia, Europe and the Americas are working to design the only lift that will take you directly to the one hundred-thousandth floor.

Despite these developments, you could be excused for thinking it all sounds a little far-fetched.

Indeed, if successfully built, the space elevator would be an unprecedented feat of human engineering.

A cable anchored to the Earth's surface, reaching tens of thousands of kilometers into space, balanced with a counterweight attached at the other end is the basic design for the elevator.

It is thought that inertia -- the physics theory stating that matter retains its velocity along a straight line so long as it is not acted upon by an external force -- will cause the cable to stay stretched taut, allowing the elevator to sit in geostationary orbit.

The cable would extend into the sky, eventually reaching a satellite docking station orbiting in space.

Engineers hope the elevator will transport people and objects into space, and there have even been suggestions that it could be used to dispose of nuclear waste. Another proposed idea is to use the elevator to place solar panels in space to provide power for homes on Earth.

If it sounds like the stuff of fiction, maybe that's because it once was.
In 1979, Arthur C. Clarke's novel "The Fountains of Paradise" brought the idea of a space elevator to a mass audience. Charles Sheffield's "The Web Between the Worlds" also featured the building of a space elevator.

But, jump out of the storybooks and fast-forward nearly three decades, and Japanese scientists at the Japan Space Elevator Association (http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&u=http://www.jsea.jp/&sa=X&oi=translate&resnum=8&ct=result&prev=/search%3Fq%3D%2522Japan%2BSpace%2BElevator%2BAssoc iation%2522%26hl%3Den%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-GB:official%26hs%3Ds52%26sa%3DG) are working seriously on the space-elevator project.

Association spokesman Akira Tsuchida said his organization was working with U.S.-based Spaceward Foundation (http://www.spaceward.org/) and a European organization based in Luxembourg to develop an elevator design.

The Liftport Group (http://www.liftport.com/) in the U.S. is also working on developing a design, and in total it's believed that more than 300 scientists and engineers are engaged in such work around the globe.

NASA is holding a $4 million Space Elevator Challenge to encourage designs for a successful space elevator.

Tsuchida said the technology driving the race to build the first space elevator is the quickly developing material carbon nanotube. It is lightweight and has a tensile strength 180 times stronger than that of a steel cable. Currently, it is the only material with the potential to be strong enough to use to manufacture elevator cable, according to Tsuchida.

"At present we have a tether which is made of carbon nanotube, and has one-third or one-quarter of the strength required to make a space elevator. We expect that we will have strong enough cable in the 2020s or 2030s," Tsuchida said.

He said the most likely method of powering the elevator would be through the carbon nanotube cable.

So, what are the major logistical issues keeping the space elevator from being anything more than a dream at present?
Massachusetts Institute of Technology aeronautics and astronautics Professor Jeff Hoffman said that designing the carbon nanotube appeared to be the biggest obstacle.

"We are now on the verge of having material that has the strength to span the 30,000 km ... but we don't have the ability to make long cable out of the carbon nanotubes at the moment." he said. "Although I'm confident that within a reasonable amount of time we will be able to do this."

Tsuchida said that one of the biggest challenges will be acquiring funding to move the projects forward. At present, there is no financial backing for the space elevator project, and all of the Japanese group's 100-plus members maintain other jobs to earn a living.

"Because we don't have a material which has enough strength to construct space elevator yet, it is difficult to change people's mind so they believe that it can be real," he said.

Hoffman feels that international dialogue needs to be encouaraged on the issue. He said a number of legal considerations also would have to be taken into account.

"This is not something one nation or one company can do. There needs to be a worldwide approach," he said.

Other difficulties for space-elevator projects include how to build the base for the elevator, how to design it and where to set up the operation.
Tsuchida said some possible locations for an elevator include the South China Sea, western Australia and the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. He said all of those locations usually avoided typhoons, which could pose a threat to the safety of an elevator.

"As the base of space elevator will be located on geosynchronous orbit, [the] space elevator ground station should be located near the equator," he said.

Although the Japanese association has set a time frame of the 2030s to get a space elevator under construction -- and developments are moving quickly -- Hoffman acknowledges that it could be a little further away than that.

"I don't know if it's going to be in our lifetime or if it's 100 or 200 years away, but it's near enough that we can contemplate how it will work."
Building a space elevator is a matter of when, not if, said Hoffman, who believes that it will herald a major new period in human history.

"It will be revolutionary for human technology, and not just for space travel. That's why so many people are pursuing it," he said. "This is what it will take to turn humans into a space-bearing species."

© 2008 Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. (http://www.cnn.com/tbs/index.html) All Rights Reserved.

October 4th, 2008, 12:08 AM
They called it a "Mag Lift Teather" in Star Trek Voyager.
Stranded on a planet under attack, Nelix and Tuvock
repaired a broken one and rode it into space to contact their ship.


November 13th, 2008, 03:15 PM
Dueling announcements today:
Hubble takes the first image of a planet circling another star... and the Keck & Gemini telescopes take an image of three! (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/11/13/huge-exoplanet-news-items-pictures/)

Its a big deal - before today announced planets were found by indirect means - wobbles in the stars movement, or by the planet eclipsing the star. Now they're find them when they take pictures of them directly...just a matter of time till they find an Earth sized one. Then it'll be a race to take a picture of features on it :)

November 13th, 2008, 05:43 PM
You think Sarah Palin would be able to deal with them now that she can see them from her house?

December 1st, 2008, 12:37 PM
Don't know if the sky will cooperate, but if it's clear, look to the southwest as the sun sets.

The moon will be 15% crescent, and two planets, Jupiter and Venus (the brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon) will be in close conjunction. You may also be able to see the full globe of the moon, its dark section illuminated by reflected sunlight from the earth.


December 1st, 2008, 02:10 PM
That would make for some nice shots, provided you have the tripod......

December 1st, 2008, 11:36 PM
I don't need no stinking tripod.

By the time clouds cleared away, it was too high in the sky to get any ground perspective. But it looked pretty cool out over the bay.

http://img367.imageshack.us/img367/1439/moonconjunction01pu0.th.jpg (http://img367.imageshack.us/my.php?image=moonconjunction01pu0.jpg)

December 2nd, 2008, 12:43 AM
The configuration has some pretty amazing geometry. :cool:


Thanks for the pic Zippy. :)

December 2nd, 2008, 07:48 AM
Oh no. The Rapture in 6 days.

December 2nd, 2008, 08:15 AM
I'm getting a different figure. What verses are you using for your calculations? ;)

December 2nd, 2008, 09:12 AM
Nice pic zip...

Did you take any with a slightly lower exposure to get more contrast on the moon surface? It might be interesting to do a superimposure of the two if you did......

December 2nd, 2008, 01:46 PM
I'm getting a different figure. What verses are you using for your calculations? ;)I used the standard text references, but added a Henry Paulson correction factor. And everything came up sixes.

Did you take any with a slightly lower exposure to get more contrast on the moon surface? It might be interesting to do a superimposure of the two if you did......The photo is underexposed, so the moon crescent wouldn't wash out. But if you lower it too much, the globe doesn't expose at all, and the sky becomes black. Could have done more if the event appeared earlier, when the sky was brighter.

The raggedy edge at the terminator is lunar topography.

December 2nd, 2008, 01:56 PM
I figured that, it looked like pixelation until I looked at it more closely....

If getting the perfect night shot was easy, it would be much less special when you did!

December 2nd, 2008, 07:24 PM
"Luna Venere e Giove su Palermo"


Full size image (http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorca/3074227829/sizes/o/)

Taken on Nov 30th.

December 3rd, 2008, 09:07 AM
Nice shot, very surreal.

I wonder how he got the moon to be so large in this, zoom maybe? (Optical illusion making you think the foreground is closer than it actually is...?)

December 3rd, 2008, 04:40 PM

December 12th, 2008, 04:23 PM
Sky Show Friday: Biggest, Brightest Full Moon of 2008

Andrew Fazekas
for National Geographic News (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/)
December 11, 2008

Don't expect to spot an Apollo lunar lander (http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/photos/moon-exploration-gallery/apollo-12.html). But Friday night, weather permitting, sky-watchers around the world will see the biggest and brightest full moon of 2008.

Although a full moon (http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/space/solar-system/full-moon-article.html) happens every month, the one that rises tomorrow will appear about 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than the other full moons seen so far this year.

That's because our cosmic neighbor will be much closer than usual. The moon will be at its closest perigee—the nearest it gets to Earth during its egg-shaped orbit around our planet.

At its farthest from Earth, the moon is said to be at apogee. (Find out more about Friday's perigee and watch a moon-facts video (http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/news/breakingorbit/2008/12/full-moon-in-your-face.html) in National Geographic News's space blog, Breaking Orbit.)

Perigee and apogee each happen generally once a month, but the moon's wobbly orbit means that its exact distance at each of those events varies over the year.

The moon's phase can also be different during each apogee and perigee.

"Typically we don't have the full moon phase and perigee coinciding at the same time, so that makes this event particularly special," said Ed Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California.

What's more, tomorrow's event will be the closest lunar perigee since 1993, at 221,560 miles (356,566 kilometers) from Earth.

The moon's farthest apogee for the year will occur a couple weeks later on December 26, when the natural satellite will be 252,650 miles (406,601 kilometers) from Earth.

Highest Tide

Because this unusually close perigee is happening during a full moon, it is expected to have an effect on Earth's tides. (Get more moon facts (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/07/0714_040714_moonfacts.html).)

"While high tides happen each month when the sun, Earth, and the moon are aligned, there is going to be an enhanced effect, with the moon being the closest it's been in more than a decade," said Ben Burress, staff astronomer at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, California.

"This would result in extra-large tides in regions that are susceptible to them, like Nova Scotia's Bay of Fundy." (See map (http://maps.nationalgeographic.com/map-machine#s=r&c=45.874712248904785,%20-63.336181640625&z=6).)

Features in the Bay of Fundy create a sloshing wave action that, in the bay's funneled and tapered basin, give rise to vast tidal ranges.

But even in such places, the effects of perigee are often modest, in most cases measurable in inches. But perigee tides can be higher if there happens to be a storm surge at the same time.

Observing the effects of perigee on the moon itself can be a bit trickier. Most casual observers may only notice a difference in the moon's brightness, Burress said.

The moon's apparent larger size might be most noticeable as it rises above the horizon at sunset.

That's when an optical illusion usually comes into play that makes the full moon seem larger—set against familiar Earthly objects—than when it's higher in the empty sky.

"This combination of the moon illusion and close perigee gives sky-watchers a chance to see the biggest and fullest moonrise possible," Burress said.

What makes this event particularly nice, the Griffith Observatory's Krupp added, is that everyone around the world can witness it without the need for special equipment, just clear skies.

"If you are charmed by the idea of seeing the biggest and brightest full moon visible in 15 years, be ready to go outside at sunset and watch for the rising moon in the east," he said.

"Or stay up all night and watch as the moon rides through the overhead skies—either way it will be a beautiful sight."

April 20th, 2009, 07:55 PM
Amazing images from the Cassini exploration of Saturn and her moons ...

Cassini's continued mission

Boston.com (http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/04/cassinis_continued_mission.html)
April 20, 2009

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is now a nearly a year into its extended mission, called Cassini Equinox (after its initial 4-year mission ended in June, 2008). The spacecraft continues to operate in good health, returning amazing images of Saturn, its ring system and moons, and providing new information and science on a regular basis. The mission's name, "Equinox" comes from the upcoming Saturnian equinox in August, 2009, when its equator (and rings) will point directly toward the Sun. The Equinox mission runs through September of 2010, with the possibility of further extensions beyond that.

Collected here are 24 more intriguing images from our ringed neighbor.

April 21st, 2009, 10:43 AM
At risk of exposing one of my nerd curses, the Cassini website is on my daily rounds. The latest discovery is shown in photo #19. Now that the sun is nearing equinox, the moons shadows are being cast over the rings, as are clumps in the rings themselves as seen along the bright band running through the center. So they can now see where the rings have "height". The playing shadows will only increase as we get closer to equinox in August, so there will likely be many new discoveries about ring structure in the months to come.

May 9th, 2009, 10:00 PM
not geeky! not geeky! :D

yeah, even though they don't update very quickly, i look at the jpl and cassini fairly regularly too, and space dot com as well, but my favorite by far is apod. i hit that one almost every day.

and what do you know but here apod just had something about the saturnian equinox:

Titan Beyond the Rings
Credit: Cassini Imaging Team (http://ciclops.org/), ISS (http://ciclops.org/iss/iss.php), JPL (http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/), ESA (http://www.esa.int/), NASA (http://www.nasa.gov/) Explanation: When orbiting Saturn, be sure to watch for breathtaking superpositions of moons and rings. One such picturesque vista was visible recently to the robot Cassini spacecraft (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassini%E2%80%93Huygens) now orbiting Saturn. In 2006 April, Cassini captured (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA08391) Saturn's A (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rings_of_Saturn#A_Ring) and F (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rings_of_Saturn#F_Ring) rings stretching in front of cloud-shrouded Titan (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap060215.html). Near the rings and appearing just above Titan was Epimetheus (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080211.html), a moon which orbits just outside the F ring (http://www.planetary.org/explore/topics/saturn/rings.html). The dark space in the A ring (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2009Icar..199..145F) is called the Encke Gap (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rings_of_Saturn#Encke_Gap), although several thin knotted ringlets and even the small moon Pan orbit (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oyO07a-0fQ) there. Cassini and curious Earthling (http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2008/11/25/article-0-029677F4000005DC-176_468x312.jpg)s await the coming Saturnian equinox (http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/introduction/) this summer when the ring plane (http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/saturn/back.html) will point directly at the Sun. Mysterious spokes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rings_of_Saturn#Spokes) and telling shadows (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap090415.html) are expected to become visible (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XJj0pjumwE) that might give away more clues about the nature of Saturn's ring (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap050525.html) particles (http://www.outer-space-art-gallery.com/joe-bergeron.html).



May 9th, 2009, 11:05 PM

May 9th, 2009, 11:12 PM
I predict that eventually there's going to be a huge "Fifth Element" type space resort positioned in orbit to observe that view.

May 10th, 2009, 08:49 AM
I'm ready to book. Always wanted to meet Chris Tucker.

May 14th, 2009, 03:28 PM


The Hubble Space Telescope stands tall in the cargo bay of the space shuttle Atlantis following its capture on Wednesday, May 13, 2009. The STS-125 mission began a series of spacewalks the following day to service Hubble. Over 11 days and five spacewalks, Atlantis' crew will make repairs and upgrades to the telescope, leaving it better than ever and ready for another five years--or more--of research.

Image Credit: NASA

May 14th, 2009, 04:19 PM
Hopefully they will make it back safely, considering the damage
the leading edge of the shuttles right wing received, from falling debris during takeoff!

May 14th, 2009, 08:42 PM
This is the fourth, and final, upgrade mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. It's fitting that the work is being carried out exactly 400 years after Galileo began building improved versions of the 3X spyglass designed by Hans Lippershey in 1608.

One Aug 21 1609, Galileo presented his telescope to the Doge and Senators of Venice.


The practical value of such a device wasn't lost on the seafaring city-states, but Galileo turned to the heavens. He first observed craters and mountains on the moon, at odds with the prevailing wisdom that all celestial objects were perfect spheres.

On Jan 7 1610, Galileo observed three points of light aligned in a straight line near Jupiter (6 nights later he discovered a fourth). Over several nights, he observed that their position relative to Jupiter changed, but they remained in a straight line. He realized that these points of light could not be fixed stars, but were objects in orbit around Jupiter. He called them the Medician Planets, but they were later renamed the Galilean Moons - Io, Europa, Callisto and Ganymede.

In March 1610, Galileo published his findings in Sidereus Nuncius (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidereus_Nuncius). His observations and papers were at odds (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_affair) with the Church's view of a Ptolemaic geocentric model of the solar system - heaven and earth. In 1632, he published a book authorized by the Inquisition, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialogue_Concerning_the_Two_Chief_World_Systems). As a result, Galileo was ordered to Rome in 1633 to stand trial. He was found "vehemently suspect of heresy." Dialog was banned until 1835, and Galileo was imprisoned. His sentence was commuted to house arrest for the rest of his life.

Galileo died on Jan 8 1642, but it didn't matter. One year later, Isaac Newton was born. Everything had changed, and the world never looked back.

Albert Einstein called Galileo the Father Of Modern Science.

Successors to Hubble are the James Webb Space Telescope (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Webb_Space_Telescope), tentatively scheduled for launch in 2014, and the optical AT-LAST (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Technology_Large-Aperture_Space_Telescope).

May 14th, 2009, 09:35 PM
I saw Galileo's original 1609 telescope at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. I recommend the exhibit for anyone into astronomy or history. If you go, take the guided tour. The historian that guided our tour was fantastic.

May 14th, 2009, 09:59 PM
We're going in June. Thanks for the tip, BR.

May 14th, 2009, 11:20 PM
Nothing to do with space, but something else you should check out while in Philly...



May 15th, 2009, 11:19 AM
Shuttle snapped up against sun

Published: Today (http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2431157.ece)


NASA'S space shuttle Atlantis has been caught in a stunning snap silhouetted against the sun.

The pic — the first ever image taken of a solar transit of a space shuttle and Hubble Space Telescope — was taken by an amateur astronomer from his back garden.

In space ... against the orb of the sun

It shows Atlantis several minutes before the craft successfully grappled the telescope.

All alone ... shuttle is ringed

Astronauts aboard the shuttle are now repairing and upgrading Hubble for the last time in a series of spacewalks.

The extraordinary photos were taken by Thierry Legault, an engineer famed for his pictures of space taken in his yard in Paris.

He took his latest image in Florida, 60 miles south of the Kennedy Space Centre.


Here is another spectacular photo: Only image ever taken of a transit of a space shuttle (Atlantis) and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in front of the Sun. (http://www.astrosurf.com/legault/atlantis_hst_transit.html)

See also: Image of the solar transit of the International Space Station (ISS) and Space Shuttle Atlantis (2006) (http://www.astrosurf.com/legault/iss_atlantis_transit.html)

May 15th, 2009, 11:38 AM

June 11th, 2009, 06:07 PM
From the Cassini spacecraft:



Never-before-seen looming vertical structures created by the tiny moon Daphnis cast long shadows across the rings in this startling image taken as Saturn approaches its mid-August 2009 equinox.

Daphnis, 8 kilometers ( 5 miles) across, occupies an inclined orbit within the 42-kilometer (26-mile) wide Keeler Gap in Saturn's outer A ring. Recent analyses by imaging scientists published in the Astronomical Journal illustrate how the moon's gravitational pull perturbs the orbits of the particles forming the gap's edge and sculpts the edge into waves having both horizontal and vertical components.

Measurements of the shadows in this and other images indicate that the vertical structures range between one-half to 1.5 kilometers tall (about one-third to one mile), making them as much as 150 times as high as the ring is thick. The main A, B and C rings are only about 10 meters (about 30 feet) thick. Daphnis itself can be seen casting a shadow onto the nearby ring.

This image of shadows on the rings and others like it are only possible around the time of Saturn's equinox which occurs every half-Saturn-year (equivalent to about 15 Earth years). The illumination geometry that accompanies equinox lowers the sun's angle to the ringplane and causes out-of-plane structures to cast long shadows across the rings.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 57 degrees below the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on May 24, 2009. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 826,000 kilometers (513,000 miles) from Daphnis and at a Sun-Daphnis-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 121 degrees. Image scale is 5 kilometers (3 miles) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/. The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org (http://ciclops.org/).

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Image Addition Date: 2009-06-11

June 11th, 2009, 07:55 PM
Super cool!

Noticing how the inner ring orbits faster than the moon and the outer ring slower, it's easy to understand how the phenomenon of axial rotation manifests in an orbital body.

It's wild to think of the time scale involved when imagining the moon slowly scrubbing matter from the outer ring, increasing its mass and orbital radius incrementally until it finally collects into one massive body with a much larger orbit.

This picture is worth many thousands of words...

July 29th, 2009, 08:42 PM
Laser Propulsion:
Wild Idea May Finally Shine

Leonard David
space.com's Space Insider Columnist
Wed Jul 29, 1:00 pm ET

New laser propulsion experiments are throwing light on how to build future hypersonic aircraft and beam spacecraft into Earth orbit.

Indeed, a "Lightcraft revolution" could replace today's commercial jet travel. Passengers would be whisked from one side of the planet to the other in less than an hour - just enough time to get those impenetrable bags of peanuts open. Furthermore, beamed energy propulsion can make flight to orbit easy, instead of tenuous and dangerous.

That's the belief of Leik Myrabo an aerospace engineering professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. He's an expert in directed energy applications, aerospace systems, space prime power, and advanced propulsion.

For the past three decades, Myrabo's burning desire has been to create and demonstrate viable concepts for non-chemical propulsion of future flight vehicles through his research and company Lightcraft Technologies, Inc., of Bennington, Vt.

"Typically, a new propulsion technology takes 25 years to mature...to the point where you can actually field it. Well, that time is now," Myrabo told SPACE.com.

Real hardware...real physics

The brightest new news in beamed energy propulsion is that experiments are now underway at the Henry T. Nagamatsu Laboratory of Hypersonics and Aerothermodynamics at the IEAv-CTA in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil.

The work is being sponsored under international collaboration between the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Brazilian Air Force.

Basic research experiments using high-powered lasers are underway in Brazil, with experts investigating the central physics of laser-heated airspikes and pulsed laser propulsion engines for future ultra-energetic craft.

At the Brazil-based lab, a hypersonic shock tunnel is linked to two pulsed infrared lasers with peak powers reaching the gigawatt range - the highest power laser propulsion experiments performed to date, Myrabo said.

"In the lab we're doing full-size engine segment tests for vehicles that will revolutionize access to space," Myrabo emphasized. "It's real hardware. It's real physics. We're getting real data...and it's not paper studies."

"Right now, we're chasing the data," Myrabo said. "When you fire into the engine, it's a real wallop. It sounds like a shotgun going off inside the lab. It's really loud."

The laser propulsion experiments, Myrabo added, are also relevant to launching nanosatellites (weighing 1 to 10 kilograms) and microsatellites (10 to 100 kilograms) into low Earth orbit.

Highways of light

Creating and flying Myrabo's "highways of light" has been a methodical and step by step undertaking.

Back in 1996 through 1999, he flew Lightcraft prototypes via a 10 kilowatt high-power infrared laser at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. In 2000 - sponsored under a grant to his company - he established a new world altitude record of over 230 feet (71 meters) for laser-boosted vehicles in free fight.

Myrabo points to his new book "Lightcraft Flight Handbook, LTI-20," co-authored with John Lewis and recently published by Apogee books, to explain his quest for low-cost, safe space access with beamed-powered Lightcraft.

"The physics of high-power (http://www.space.com/common/media/video/player.php?videoRef=SP_090505_mark_millis) beamed energy propagation through the atmosphere...there's not a lot of expertise out there to make this stuff real. It's completely out of the conventional box," Myrabo said. "I've been working on it for 30 years. I know how to do it."

For decades, Myrabo said, what laser propulsion physicists have been hungry to achieve is a couple of dollars per watt of laser energy. "We're here now. It's a matter of will and do we want to do it. This technology is now at the cusp of commercial reality."

Video - Promising new space engines (http://www.space.com/common/media/video/player.php?videoRef=LS_090519_Space-Engines)

July 30th, 2009, 09:41 AM
At the Brazil-based lab, a hypersonic shock tunnel is linked to two pulsed infrared lasers with peak powers reaching the gigawatt range

In the lab we're doing full-size engine segment tests

laser propulsion physicists have been hungry to achieve is a couple of dollars per watt of laser energy

Um, Giga = Billion. A few dollars per watt, multiplied by a billion, for a "full sized engine" is a few BILLION dollars... :eek:

Also, how is the energy transmitted/stored? Until battery technology or other methods of electrical energy generation are produced, inventing the laser propulsion system may be a bit premature.

Also, it works by heating air, correct? That becomes rather limited when you are in space, unless you bring air with you........

September 2nd, 2009, 10:54 PM

September 2nd, 2009, 10:56 PM
did anyone see this today on apod? my gawd, what a gorgeous time lapse launch photo!

its the aug28 launch of the shuttle -- taking 7 tons of supplies up to the space station.


September 3rd, 2009, 09:14 AM
Neat shot.

And no scorpion........[/bad memories]

September 7th, 2009, 08:23 PM
That sun shot is just amazing.

September 10th, 2009, 01:56 PM
Souped-Up Hubble Makes A Comeback

NASA has released the first collection of views
from the refurbished Hubble Space Telescope.

by Nell Greenfieldboyce

September 9, 2009

New images from the recently refurbished Hubble Space Telescope show that the 19-year-old observatory is now more powerful than ever.

Ever since astronauts traveled to the orbiting observatory in May and did a variety of upgrades, scientists have been testing and calibrating the telescope. At a press conference at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., officials released some images to demonstrate that the new and improved Hubble is working as planned.

The pictures show awe-inspiring cosmic scenes such as a "butterfly" nebula around a dying star, the stunningly colorful core of a giant star cluster, a quintet of galaxies, and a so-called pillar of creation where stars are being born.

A New Beginning

"We are giddy with the quality of the data that we have with this new telescope," says Heidi Hammel, senior research scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

"You can already see remarkable differences between what we're seeing now and what we saw with the prior instrumentation," says David Leckrone, senior project scientist for Hubble at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

For example, he says, the backgrounds of some images are suddenly full of "all this stuff. There are marvelous details" that went unnoticed before.

Scientists already have plans to use the rejuvenated Hubble to study Kuiper belt objects, like Pluto, as well as the atmospheres of planets around other stars.

"Let there be no doubt that this is truly Hubble's new beginning," says Ed Weiler, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

Hard-Earned Repairs Pay Off

Hubble has upgraded in space five times. The most recent servicing mission almost didn't happen. It was cancelled after the space shuttle Columbia disaster, because NASA officials felt going to Hubble again might be too risky. But astronomers fought the decision, hoping to keep Hubble alive. And in the end, the mission went forward.

During the final repair mission, astronauts did five tricky spacewalks. They installed a new camera and a fancy new spectrograph, and fixed two instruments that were never even designed to be repaired in space. The astronauts had to undo dozens of little screws and reach into the guts of those gadgets to replace electronic boards.

The astronauts who did all these fixes say they were amazed by the new pictures.

"I was just, 'Wow,' " says John Grunsfeld, an astrophysicist and astronaut who has gone on three Hubble repair missions. "And it was the kind of wow, the hair standing up on the back of my neck, to see the potential of this telescope now."

Astronaut Mike Massimino says that when they closed up Hubble for the last time and came home, they thought the mission had gone well. "It's really great to see the evidence that it actually does work. And those images just look great," Massimino says. "And I am so grateful that it is working and I didn't break anything."

NASA has no plans to repair Hubble again. The hope is that it will continue working until at least 2014, when the agency plans to launch the James Webb Space Telescope, a new large space observatory.

Copyright 2009 NPR

NGC 6302


Full size image and others at the NASA website (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/multimedia/ero/).

September 15th, 2009, 11:25 AM
Speaking of Hubble, it's first photo since the last upgrade was made while still being calibrated because an ameteur astronomer discovered a new impact on Jupiter.

Hubble Space Telescope Captures Rare Jupiter Collision

July 24, 2009


This Hubble picture, taken on July 23, by the new Wide Field Camera 3, is the sharpest visible-light picture taken of the atmospheric debris from a comet or asteroid that collided with Jupiter on July 19. This is Hubble's first science observation following its repair and upgrade in May. The size of the impactor is estimated to be as large as several football fields.
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and H. Hammel (Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.), and the Jupiter Impact Team

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken the sharpest visible-light picture yet of atmospheric debris from an object that collided with Jupiter on July 19. NASA scientists decided to interrupt the recently refurbished observatory's checkout and calibration to take the image of a new, expanding spot on the giant planet on July 23.

Discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley, the spot was created when a small comet or asteroid plunged into Jupiter's atmosphere and disintegrated. The only other time such a feature has been seen on Jupiter was 15 years ago after the collision of fragments from comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

"Because we believe this magnitude of impact is rare, we are very fortunate to see it with Hubble," said Amy Simon-Miller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Details seen in the Hubble view shows a lumpiness to the debris plume caused by turbulence in Jupiter's atmosphere."

The new Hubble images also confirm that a May servicing visit by space shuttle astronauts was a big success.

"This image of the impact on Jupiter is fantastic," said U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee. "It tells us that our astronauts and the ground crew at the Goddard Space Flight Center successfully repaired the Hubble telescope. I'm so proud of them and I can't wait to see what's next from Hubble."

For the past several days, Earth-based telescopes have been trained on Jupiter. To capture the unfolding drama 360 million miles away, Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, gave observation time to a team of astronomers led by Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

"Hubble's truly exquisite imaging capability has revealed an astonishing wealth of detail in the impact site," Hammel said. "By combining these images with our ground-based data at other wavelengths, our Hubble data will allow a comprehensive understanding of exactly what is happening to the impact debris."

Simon-Miller estimated the diameter of the impacting object was the size of several football fields. The force of the explosion on Jupiter was thousands of times more powerful than the suspected comet or asteroid that exploded over the Siberian Tunguska River Valley in June 1908.

The image was taken with the Wide Field Camera 3. The new camera, installed by the astronauts aboard space shuttle Atlantis in May, is not yet fully calibrated. While it is possible to obtain celestial images, the camera's full power has yet to be seen.

"This is just one example of what Hubble's new, state-of-the-art camera can do, thanks to the STS-125 astronauts and the entire Hubble team," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "However, the best is yet to come."

NASA (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/main/jupiter-hubble.html)

October 9th, 2009, 03:13 PM
NASA Space Telescope Discovers Largest Ring Around Saturn


This artist's conception shows a nearly invisible ring around Saturn - the largest of the giant planet's many rings. It was discovered by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Keck

October 06, 2009

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered an enormous ring around Saturn -- by far the largest of the giant planet's many rings.

The new belt lies at the far reaches of the Saturnian system, with an orbit tilted 27 degrees from the main ring plane. The bulk of its material starts about six million kilometers (3.7 million miles) away from the planet and extends outward roughly another 12 million kilometers (7.4 million miles). One of Saturn's farthest moons, Phoebe, circles within the newfound ring, and is likely the source of its material.

Saturn's newest halo is thick, too -- its vertical height is about 20 times the diameter of the planet. It would take about one billion Earths stacked together to fill the ring.

"This is one supersized ring," said Anne Verbiscer, an astronomer at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. "If you could see the ring, it would span the width of two full moons' worth of sky, one on either side of Saturn." Verbiscer; Douglas Hamilton of the University of Maryland, College Park; and Michael Skrutskie, of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, are authors of a paper about the discovery to be published online tomorrow by the journal Nature.

An artist's concept of the newfound ring is online at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/spitzer/multimedia/spitzer-20091007a.html .

The ring itself is tenuous, made up of a thin array of ice and dust particles. Spitzer's infrared eyes were able to spot the glow of the band's cool dust. The telescope, launched in 2003, is currently 107 million kilometers (66 million miles) from Earth in orbit around the sun.

The discovery may help solve an age-old riddle of one of Saturn's moons. Iapetus has a strange appearance -- one side is bright and the other is really dark, in a pattern that resembles the yin-yang symbol. The astronomer Giovanni Cassini first spotted the moon in 1671, and years later figured out it has a dark side, now named Cassini Regio in his honor. A stunning picture of Iapetus taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft is online at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA08384 .

Saturn's newest addition could explain how Cassini Regio came to be. The ring is circling in the same direction as Phoebe, while Iapetus, the other rings and most of Saturn's moons are all going the opposite way. According to the scientists, some of the dark and dusty material from the outer ring moves inward toward Iapetus, slamming the icy moon like bugs on a windshield.

"Astronomers have long suspected that there is a connection between Saturn's outer moon Phoebe and the dark material on Iapetus," said Hamilton. "This new ring provides convincing evidence of that relationship."

Verbiscer and her colleagues used Spitzer's longer-wavelength infrared camera, called the multiband imaging photometer, to scan through a patch of sky far from Saturn and a bit inside Phoebe's orbit. The astronomers had a hunch that Phoebe might be circling around in a belt of dust kicked up from its minor collisions with comets -- a process similar to that around stars with dusty disks of planetary debris. Sure enough, when the scientists took a first look at their Spitzer data, a band of dust jumped out.

The ring would be difficult to see with visible-light telescopes. Its particles are diffuse and may even extend beyond the bulk of the ring material all the way in to Saturn and all the way out to interplanetary space. The relatively small numbers of particles in the ring wouldn't reflect much visible light, especially out at Saturn where sunlight is weak.

"The particles are so far apart that if you were to stand in the ring, you wouldn't even know it," said Verbiscer.

Spitzer was able to sense the glow of the cool dust, which is only about 80 Kelvin (minus 316 degrees Fahrenheit). Cool objects shine with infrared, or thermal radiation; for example, even a cup of ice cream is blazing with infrared light. "By focusing on the glow of the ring's cool dust, Spitzer made it easy to find," said Verbiscer.

These observations were made before Spitzer ran out of coolant in May and began its "warm" mission.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, also in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. The multiband imaging photometer for Spitzer was built by Ball Aerospace Corporation, Boulder, Colo., and the University of Arizona, Tucson. Its principal investigator is George Rieke of the University of Arizona.


This diagram illustrates the extent of the largest ring around Saturn, discovered by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The ring is huge, and far from the gas planet and the rest of its majestic rings.

full image and caption (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/spitzer/multimedia/spitzer-20091007b.html)

For additional images relating to the ring discovery and more information about Spitzer, visit http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu (http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/spitzer) and http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer .

October 9th, 2009, 04:37 PM
The bug on a windshield thing is very cool. To think of a ring that sparse being able to coat a planet in a stellar dirty snow!

And how long it probably took to DO that is also impressive!

I had no idea Elliot got that far out!!!!!

October 9th, 2009, 04:59 PM
Anyone else here try to view the moon bombing this morning? I couldn't see any plume with my 10" Dobsonian. :(

October 10th, 2009, 01:27 AM
I bet it's really only 6".

October 10th, 2009, 05:00 PM
Telescope envy?

November 23rd, 2009, 10:52 PM
Now with water (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/14/science/14moon.html) on the moon, commercial possibilities (http://www.politicallore.com/images/Cartoons/moonwater.jpg) abound.


November 24th, 2009, 12:11 AM
From the "water" link above:

NASA’s current exploration plans call for a return of astronauts to the Moon by 2020, for the first visit since 1972. But a panel appointed in May recently concluded that trimmings of the agency’s budget made that goal impossible. One option presented to the Obama administration was to bypass Moon landings for now and focus on long-duration missions in deep space.How depressing

November 24th, 2009, 12:20 AM
Don't worry. China will get there by then.

It'll be on TV.

November 24th, 2009, 12:21 AM
And Sam Chang will be the first to build a hotel on it.

November 30th, 2009, 02:16 PM
More from the Cassini spacecraft as it narrows in on the source of ice jets on Enceladus.

Cassini Flyby Shows Enceladus Venting


View larger image (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/image/0911/enceladus12_cassini_big.png).

Credit: NASA (http://www.nasa.gov/)/JPL (http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/)/SSI (http://ciclops.org/); Mosaic: Emily Lakdawalla (http://www.planetary.org/blog/)

What's happening on the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus? Enormous ice jets are erupting. Giant plumes of ice have been photographed in dramatic fashion (http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/features.cfm?feature=2372) by the robotic Cassini spacecraft (http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/spacecraft/overview/) during this past weekend's flyby (http://ciclops.org/view_event/120/Enceladus_Rev_121_Flyby_Raw_Preview) of Saturn's moon Enceladus. Pictured above (http://www.planetary.org/blog/article/00002227/), numerous plumes are seen rising from long tiger-stripe (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap090628.html) canyons across Enceladus' craggy (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap081014.html) surface (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap081105.html). Several ice jets are even visible in the shadowed region of crescent Enceladus (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7fpErxgWzQ) as they reach high enough to scatter sunlight. Other plumes, near the top of the above image (http://planetary.org/image/N00146851_55_rotated_mosaic.png), appear visible just over the moon's sunlit edge. That Enceladus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enceladus_%28moon%29) vents fountains of ice was first discovered on Cassini (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBhAPz5pqYg) images in 2005, and has been under close study ever since. Continued study of the ice plumes (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap071013.html) may yield further clues as to whether underground oceans, candidates for containing life (http://www1.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/media/enceladus-f20080326.html), exist on this distant ice world.


February 3rd, 2010, 11:26 AM
Huffington Post | Amanda Ng First Posted: 02- 2-10 01:30 PM | Updated: 02- 3-10 11:14 AM


NASA scientists have spotted a mysterious X-shaped debris pattern with trailing streamers of dust that is unlike any image astronomers have seen before.
The behavior is not typical of comets, UCLA investigator David Jewitt explains, and researchers believe something unprecedented has been spotted:
This is quite different from the smooth dust envelopes of normal comets. [...] The filaments are made of dust and gravel, presumably recently thrown out of the nucleus. Some are swept back by radiation pressure from sunlight to create straight dust streaks. Embedded in the filaments are co-moving blobs of dust that likely originated from tiny unseen parent bodies.Across the vastness of space, chances are slim that scientists would have a camera pointed in the right direction and set to capture images at the moment two random asteroids collide. These conditions, it seems, haven't been met until now.
If what astronomers believe is correct, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 happened to be correctly oriented just as two asteroids slammed into each other 90 million miles away from the Earth.
Scientists are guessing the collision happened at speeds over 11,000 miles per hour, which is what scientists believe the average speed of asteroid collisions are. (see photo below)
It seems that only one asteroid, named P/2010 A2, survived the impact and is seen in the image glowing just outside of the X-debris pattern. It is assumed that the other asteroid disintegrated fully.
Astronomers have long assumed that these types of collisions are common, but they've never been directly recorded until now. The join of the X is thought to mark the location where the impact occurred, while the distinctive X-shape was created by debris being swept into tail formations by the pressure of sunlight.
Scientists have long noted that the asteroid belt of our solar system contains evidence of ancient collisions. They believe that a similar such collision may have produced an asteroid fragment that became the meteorite that struck the Earth 65 million years ago and caused the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.

February 11th, 2010, 05:12 PM
Science Illustrated

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2010/02/09/science/space/09solar_graphic/09solar_graphic-thumbStandard.jpg (http://javascript<b></b>:pop_me_up2('http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2010/02/09/science/space/09solar_graphic.html?ref=science','1195_1030','wid th=1195,height=1030,location=no,scrollbars=yes,too lbars=no,resizable=yes'))
(http://javascript<b></b>:pop_me_up2('http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2010/02/09/science/space/09solar_graphic.html?ref=science','1195_1030','wid th=1195,height=1030,location=no,scrollbars=yes,too lbars=no,resizable=yes'))

GRAPHIC (http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2010/02/09/science/space/09solar_graphic.html?ref=science)

Scheduled for launching this week, the Solar Dynamics Observatory will observe the Sun in detail, studying how its magnetic field is generated and measuring its extreme ultraviolet radiation.


Copyright 2010 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

February 13th, 2010, 08:04 AM
Nice shot.


Shuttle Silhouette

In a very unique setting over Earth's colorful horizon, the silhouette of the space shuttle Endeavour is featured in this photo by an Expedition 22 crew member on board the International Space Station, as the shuttle approached for its docking on Feb. 9 during the STS-130 mission.

Image Credit: NASA


March 5th, 2010, 03:07 AM
Surface of the Red Planet: images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite

SLIDE SHOW (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/picture-galleries/7367964/Surface-of-the-Red-Planet-images-from-NASAs-Mars-Reconnaissance-Orbiter-satellite.html)

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2010

Victoria Crater in the Meridiani Planum region, an 800-metre-wide (half-mile-wide) crater
Picture: AP / NASA

March 12th, 2010, 01:39 AM
Where?? :confused:
This is so horrible:eek:

March 15th, 2010, 10:28 PM
Where?? :confused:
This is so horrible:eek:

What are you referring to?

March 16th, 2010, 08:11 AM
I think he had property on Mars....

March 16th, 2010, 11:53 AM
uh-oh ... beware:

NIMBY from Mars!

March 16th, 2010, 11:55 AM
You are NOT putting that asteroid in MY back yard!!! [head swagger]

March 16th, 2010, 08:12 PM
Discovery was rolled out to LC-39A for her launch on april 5th, here is a timelapse:


June 1st, 2010, 08:54 PM
The new James Webb Space Telegraph, set for launch in 2014, on display this week on the Center Lawn in Battery Park (or a full-size model of it, anyway):

Spaced Out in Battery Park (http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2010/06/01/spaced_out_in_battery_park_coney_island_rendering_ war.php)

June 2nd, 2010, 09:36 AM
Space... telegraph? :o

June 2nd, 2010, 10:48 AM
.... --- .-.. -.-- ... .... .. - !

June 2nd, 2010, 11:31 AM
Like it says: Spaced Out :o

October 21st, 2010, 03:54 PM
Experts: Huge space tourism expansion just months away

By Thom Patterson, CNNOctober 18, 2010 3:33 p.m. EDT

(CNN) -- It's unlikely that you've heard of PJ King, despite the fact that he's about to set himself apart from most humans who've ever walked the planet. In as soon as 18 months, King could be launching into space as a paying commercial space tourist.
King, a 41-year-old Irish businessman, is one of hundreds of travelers who've signed up and trained to be among the first paying passengers aboard Virgin Galactic's (http://www.virgingalactic.com/) trips to suborbital space -- 62 miles above the Earth.
"One of the reasons I'm doing this is precisely because I want these things to be ordinary," King said. "Part of the problem with space travel is that it is special."
King believes the $200,000 he and other passengers pay for a seat on a Virgin Galactic spacecraft will help create a new future when "flights like this are happening every week, when lots of people go, and the cost has been massively reduced due to the economics of scale."
Prices are coming down, even before space tourism has started taking off.

Full story and pics:

October 21st, 2010, 03:55 PM
Virgin Galactic successfully tests VSS Enterprise

By the CNN Wire Staff
October 16, 2010 2:19 p.m. EDT

(CNN) -- A pair of pilots flew the world's first manned commercial spacecraft over California's Mojave Desert on Sunday, though they were the only ones aboard.
The mission was a test flight for Richard Branson's dream of affordable space travel and put his vision a step closer to reality, he said after watching the spaceship land.
"Now, the sky is no longer the limit, and we will begin the process of pushing beyond to the final frontier of space itself over the next year," Branson said, according to a statement released by his company, Virgin Galactic, which is behind the project.

Full story with video:

October 21st, 2010, 04:02 PM
Scum, if people are out there that will spend $8M on an I-Phone, they will have the spare change for a few cheap $200K jaunts into space.

Maybe even get into the 62 mile high club.

February 15th, 2011, 03:46 PM
Tyche, Giant Hidden Planet, May Exist In Our Solar System (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/14/tyche-hidden-planet_n_823028.html)

The Huffington Post Dean Praetorius First Posted: 02/14/11 03:13 PM Updated: 02/14/11 05:05 PM

We may have lost Pluto (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kate-kelly/pluto-may-no-longer-be-a_b_789747.html), but it looks like we might be getting Tyche.
Scientists may soon be able to prove the existence of the gas giant, which could be four times the size of Jupiter, according to astrophysicists John Matese and Daniel Whitmire from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The two first proposed Tyche's existence in order to explain a change in path of comets entering the solar system, according to The Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/up-telescope-search-begins-for-giant-new-planet-2213119.html).
From the The Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/up-telescope-search-begins-for-giant-new-planet-2213119.html):
Tyche will almost certainly be made up mostly of hydrogen and helium and will probably have an atmosphere much like Jupiter's, with colourful spots and bands and clouds, Professor Whitmire said. "You'd also expect it to have moons. All the outer planets have them," he added.
For a graphical representation of Tyche, click here (http://www.independent.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00555/tyche3_555342a.pdf).
So how could we have missed such a massive planet in our own solar system?
Well, it's 15,000 times further from the sun than Earth, according to Gizmodo (http://gizmodo.com/#%215759865/the-mystery-of-the-giant-planet-hidden-in-our-solar-system). Tyche (if it does exist) lies in the Oort cloud, the outer shell of asteroids in our solar system.
Despite what the scientists believe they will find in the data (which will be released in April and was collected by NASA Wise space telescope), there is at least one flaw in their theory. Theoretically, a planet of Tyche's size should seriously disturb comets in the inner Oort Cloud, but that effect is yet to have been observed, according to The Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/up-telescope-search-begins-for-giant-new-planet-2213119.html).
But even if it does exist, it still may not be deemed a planet.
From Gizmodo (http://gizmodo.com/#%215759865/the-mystery-of-the-giant-planet-hidden-in-our-solar-system):

If its existence is finally confirmed, its Solar System planet status may not be guaranteed. The reason: Astronomers theorize that Tyche could be a planet born in another star system and captured by ours. The current name (which may change) is derived from the name of a Greek goddess that "governed the destiny of a city," according to the Mail (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1356748/Search-Tyche-believed-largest-planet-solar-system.html).
If we've missed a planet in our own solar system for this long, what else are we missing? (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/seth-shostak/a-bucketful-of-worlds_b_817921.html)

February 15th, 2011, 04:24 PM
Meh, sounds unlikely....

What might be out there are hyperdense planetoids that introduce odd gravitational interactions to the nearby asteroids and comets as they orbit.

I can't see how a large gas giant could be there.... At that distance it would practically be stationary. You coud rule in or out its own existance simply by tracking the pieces we can observe and see where these guys have been going off track.... but whatever.

I think it would be neat if we have another, but I am not going to start hoping until they get something more solid than a matematical model that still does not work in all cases!! ;)

February 16th, 2011, 12:03 AM
Whatever happened to Nemesis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemesis_%28star%29)?

February 16th, 2011, 07:59 AM
I thought he had this epic battle and was exiled for all eternity..........

April 16th, 2011, 11:19 PM
NASA started releasing images from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite-telescope.

Data from NASA's sky-mapping telescope released

By ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer Fri Apr 15, 5:51 pm ET

LOS ANGELES – NASA has released a trove of data from its sky-mapping mission, allowing scientists and anyone with access to the Internet to peruse millions of galaxies, stars, asteroids and other hard-to-see objects.

Many of the targets in the celestial catalog released online this week have been previously observed, but there are significant new discoveries. The mission's finds include more than 33,000 new asteroids floating between Mars and Jupiter and 20 comets.

NASA launched the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, which carried an infrared telescope, in December 2009 to scan the cosmos in finer detail than previous missions. The spacecraft, known as WISE, mapped the sky 1 1/2 times during its 14-month mission, snapping more than 2 1/2 million images from its polar orbit.

The spacecraft's ability to detect heat glow helps it find dusty, cold and distant objects that are often invisible to regular telescopes.

The batch of images made available represents a little over half of what's been observed in the all-sky survey. The full cosmic census is scheduled for release next spring.

"The spectacular new data just released remind us that we have many new neighbors," said Pete Schultz, a space scientist at Brown University, who had no role in the project.

University of Alabama astronomer William Keel already started mining the database for quasars — compact, bright objects powered by super-massive black holes.

"If I see a galaxy with highly ionized gas clouds in its outskirts and no infrared evidence of a hidden quasar, that's a sign that the quasar has essentially shut down in the last 30,000 to 50,000 years," Keel said.

WISE ran out of coolant in October, making it unable to chill its heat-sensitive instruments and observe faraway objects. So it instead spent the next four months seeking out near-Earth asteroids and comets that should help scientists better calculate whether any are potentially threatening. The spacecraft went into hibernation in February.

The mission, managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was hundreds of times more sensitive than its predecessor, the Infrared Astronomical Satellite, which launched in 1983 and made the first all-sky map in infrared wavelength.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press


High-res image - 7 meg (http://wise.ssl.berkeley.edu/gallery_images/WISE2011-015-xlg.jpg)

There are larger TIFF images uploaded to the WISE Website (http://wise.ssl.berkeley.edu/gallery_images.html)

April 18th, 2011, 08:32 AM
They designed an infrared camera that could not be cooled.....in space?


I guess there is something more to this they are not telling us, buut I never got the impression that coolant was a vital staple in space.....

April 18th, 2011, 09:25 AM
In an earth polar orbit (yes out in cold space), when the suns rays strikes an object,
without the atmosphere of the earth to protect it,
the object will heat up very quickly, to extremely high temperatures- thus the need for coolant...
from spacetoday.org:

Because infrared energy is heat, the telescope must be cooled to a temperature near absolute zero to see infrared unobstructed by heat generated by the telescope itself. Absolute zero is a temperature of –459 degrees Fahrenheit or –273 degrees Celsius. The telescope also must be protected from the heat of the Sun as well as infrared radiated from Earth.

April 18th, 2011, 09:53 AM
I know what you are saying SM, thing is, in space all you ned is an umbrella (the whole "dark side of the moon" deal).

I wonder if, for all the brilliance of the scientists and engineers there at NASA, if they are starting to forget that the best solutions are sometimes the simplest...... (I know there are other complications, etc etc, but you know what I am saying?)

April 18th, 2011, 10:00 AM
They designed an infrared camera that could not be cooled.....in space?The moon - no internal heat or atmosphere - sits in space.

Today's forecast: Low of -150° C, warming up to a high of +105° C.

April 18th, 2011, 01:18 PM
OK, lets take another step. You get this sucker into shade, with a reflective solar shield, you will approach absolute zero.

The moon does not drop all the way because of its own absorption of solar energy. The rock will heat up and emit IR when in the dark (the only method of transmission of thermal energy in a vacume is through EM....)

This sucker will not if it were equipped with something as simple as a mirror.

Now the only question would be, engineering wise, how to get the heat OUT of the equipment and into the radiator elements for cooling? Is this where the "coolant" resides?

Also, I have never heard of running out of coolant unless the system was not designed to be fully contained.....

It is just confusing that something would have a problem with cooling in the vacum of space.

April 18th, 2011, 01:49 PM
Send off a letter to the JPL. I'm sure that in their limited experience with satellites and planetary probes, they didn't foresee this problem, and would be grateful for your "simplest solution."


Seems to me you just missed the point in your first post; it was explained to you by SM; and you are now standing in a hole. The simplest solution is to put down the shovel.

April 19th, 2011, 08:22 AM
Yeah sure.

Again, the simplified answer of "running out of coolant" does not make sense Zip.

You wanna keep digging my hole, you are more than welcome.

April 19th, 2011, 09:53 AM
The "running out of coolant" wasn't a leak or system failure.

The coolant was designed to operate for 10 months; the sky-mapping mission took 6 months. As the coolant was expended, the data degraded, so they began to use WISE to catalog asteroids - it found over 25,000 - and Near Earth Objects - over 100.

The coolant was a bath cryostat, using frozen hydrogen. A 186 liter secondary tank cooled telescope systems to less than 17° K, and kept any heat away from the inner 24 liter primary tank. The primary tank cooled two sensors to 7.8° K.

A cryostat of this type isn't regenerative like an auto engine cooling system. It is the "simplest answer," a thermos bottle.

WISE cutaway (http://wise2.ipac.caltech.edu/docs/release/prelim/expsup/figures/sec3_2f5.jpg)

You can get out of the hole now.

May 14th, 2011, 03:50 PM
Comet Death by Sun (http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/5715631317/) ...

May 14th, 2011, 04:17 PM
Lofter, were you searching the nabe, and stumbled on it?


This comet crash may fit into the theories of one Robert Fitzpatrick, who predicts that the world will end in exactly one week, Saturday, May21st, at about 6PM. I assume that's EDT, since he lives on Staten Island.

Fitzpatrick's doomsday mechanism is a giant earthquake that will destroy all life on earth, but I think we should overlook the error if it's a comet. He's backed up his prophesy with his wallet; $140,000 spent on a self-published book, The Doomsday Code, and bus and subway ads.

Hey, you might be a little crazy too if you spent your working life at the MTA.


May 14th, 2011, 04:47 PM
Damn. I have plans for the 24th.

I was searching around for stories on how much tax revenue the retail stores in SoHo pump into the NYC budget and came across the comet.

Still looking for links to the SoHo story ...

May 14th, 2011, 05:59 PM
Does Jupiter protect us from comets?

The planet, not the Roman god.

I heard it stated on a Science Channel program episode, maybe "The Solar System." Stated as fact, but with a weak explanation that its immense gravity deflects comets away from the inner solar system.

Didn't make sense to me. What about comets that are in a different path and are deflected toward earth?

And I forgot about asteroids, that normally orbit peacefully between Mars and Jupiter. Jupiter gets them all agitated, and they sometimes collide and head sunward.

Seems the jury is out as to whether Jupiter is friend or foe:

May 14th, 2011, 06:15 PM
I saw the same assertion about Jupiter's benevolent effects in the series "How the Universe Works". Something about life on Earth may not have been able to advance without Jupiter because of the effect.

The times article presented an interesting balance. Thanks.

May 15th, 2011, 12:31 PM
"Life on Earth may not have been able to advance" makes more sense. Early solar system was a chaotic place.

May 16th, 2011, 08:41 AM
Zip, what may be the case is this.....

If a comet is on a collision course with Earth, it is definitely threading a needle. But it is possible. The thing is, it has taken so many orbits for this to occur. DURING that time, it has a greater chance to pass within the larger gravity well of Jupiter.

Is this a shield?

Not really, it just spreads the wealth a bit. It takes the orbits of these particles and scatters them all about rather haphazardly (introduces a large localized abnormality). It also "eats" a few itself.

So I can see how Jupiter acts as a screen for us, but it definitely is not an infallible shield.

May 23rd, 2011, 07:58 PM
I am going to self promote here, but an amazing view of the Soyuz undocking showing the shuttle and station docked together:


June 25th, 2011, 02:42 PM
Latest image (June 18th) of one of Saturn's moons, Helene (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helene_%28moon%29), taken by the Cassini probe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassini-Huygens), which has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004, its mission extended to 2017.

Closest approach to Helene was 4330 miles.


Other images taken by Cassini (http://www.space.com/10850-planet-saturn-moons-rings-cassini-spacecraft.html)

June 27th, 2011, 09:36 AM
That's a moon?

Aren't they getting a bit anal about what they are calling things now? Pluto is not a Planet (is it a "Planetoid?") because of its size.... Maybe this is not a moon!


June 27th, 2011, 09:50 AM

Deimos (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deimos_%28moon%29) was discovered in 1877. Much smaller than Helene.

Size doesn't matter. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_satellite)

June 27th, 2011, 10:20 AM
Sometimes they refer to the larger chunks embedded within Saturn's rings as moonlets. Also faint, tenuous rings are ringlets.

June 27th, 2011, 11:02 AM
................but an amazing view of the Soyuz undocking showing the shuttle and station docked together:

That is an AMAZING video: thanks. Reminds me of a particular quote: "I feel particularly close to them, because I am now out in the universe. I'm in a position to see nature from another point of view, to be outside the earth and see the big picture".
Story Musgrave (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/storymusgr243215.html)

June 27th, 2011, 11:38 AM

When was Pluto discovered?

Just because they delineate something does not mean they change the requirements later and disqualify something that previously qualified....

I am just curious because this thing looks like an oversized asteroid (I am quite aware of Mars' little buddies).... I am also aware of the shepherd moonlets in Saturn, so I was curious.....

June 27th, 2011, 11:58 AM
Just because they delineate something does not mean they change the requirements later and disqualify something that previously qualified.Science doesn't modify its definitions?

June 27th, 2011, 12:54 PM
Rhertorical or sarcastic? :confused:

June 27th, 2011, 01:13 PM

You can check this stuff out easily yourself.

In 2005, an object a little larger than Pluto was discovered beyond Neptune, and named Eris. As deep probes begin to discover these objects, it became necessary to reclassify what a planet is. In 2006, the IAU agreed:

Definition of a Planet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IAU_definition_of_planet)

In 1919, Edwin Hubble, using a better telescope, discovered that those faint smudges of light were galaxies. Up until then, the scientific consensus was that the Milky Way was the universe.

June 27th, 2011, 01:59 PM
The DAWN spacecraft is now approaching its first target, the asteroid Vesta, using ion propulsion. Very roughly, Vesta is about 500km diameter, by far the largest asteroid visited by a spacecraft.

Dawn website (http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/)

Though it won't get there until August, it has just started coming into view.


After Vesta, DAWN will visit the dwarf planet Ceres, previously listed as the largest asteroid. Until now, only blurry images of both these objects could be discerned, even from Hubble.

June 27th, 2011, 03:02 PM
That's a moon?

Aren't they getting a bit anal about what they are calling things now? Pluto is not a Planet (is it a "Planetoid?") because of its size.... Maybe this is not a moon!

A moon is any natural object that orbits a planet, regardless of size. A planet is a natural object that orbits the sun that must be at least 2000km in diameter

June 28th, 2011, 02:23 PM
GG, that would mean that the rings of Saturn are billions of moons........

June 28th, 2011, 05:34 PM
I think a moon has to have a defined orbit around its primary.

To confuse you further (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moonlet)

June 28th, 2011, 05:43 PM
yes, every particle in Saturn's rings can be considered a moon. In practice, the largest boulders are called moonlets and the dust & particles are classified as ring material

June 28th, 2011, 11:23 PM
Nasa has unveiled a mockup model of their next Space Shuttle spaceshihip. Looks similar in shape to the Apollo spacecraft.

Did anyone else see it?

June 28th, 2011, 11:47 PM
Here's another view.

June 29th, 2011, 08:03 AM
Nothing coming up Zip (not even a blocked image...)

June 29th, 2011, 09:29 AM
Read both posts.

June 29th, 2011, 09:39 AM
Here it is. A scaled-down model of it anyway, shown between the 4 men.

June 29th, 2011, 10:03 AM
Thank you, DQ. Much better.

June 29th, 2011, 11:17 AM
Ah, my bad. I did not hear the tone of your voice...... ;)

June 30th, 2011, 01:55 AM
Thank you, DQ. Much better.

You're so welcome!

July 20th, 2011, 11:10 PM
a heads up, the final space shuttle landing is this morning a few minutes before 6 am eastern

July 21st, 2011, 12:42 AM
The Lost Dream of Trippy '70s Space Colonies

http://cdn.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/science/bigger.jpg (http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/print/2011/07/the-lost-dream-of-trippy-70s-space-colonies/242192/)

Copyright © 2011 by The Atlantic Monthly Group.

July 21st, 2011, 06:44 AM
a heads up, the final space shuttle landing is this morning a few minutes before 6 am eastern

It has landed.

The occupants will remain in it for about an hour before coming out of it.

July 23rd, 2011, 10:29 PM

Thursday, July 21st. Last reentry of Atlantis, captured from the International Space Station. Mach 14.

July 28th, 2011, 10:32 PM

July 29th, 2011, 12:54 PM
If you guys like that picture, check out the GIF in this article taking a few dozen images and animating them:



August 2nd, 2011, 08:59 PM
Space shuttle Columbia part found in east Texas By the CNN Wire Staff
August 2, 2011 5:46 p.m. EDT

Recovered debris from the space shuttle Columbia lies in a hangar at Kennedy Space Center in May 2003.


The object is a tank that provides power and water for shuttle missions
It was found after drought caused lake waters to recede
Columbia broke up while re-entering atmosphere in 2003


Space Shuttle Columbia (http://topics.cnn.com/topics/Space_Shuttle_Columbia)
NASA (http://topics.cnn.com/topics/NASA)
Manned Space Flight (http://topics.cnn.com/topics/Manned_Space_Flight)
Texas (http://topics.cnn.com/topics/Texas)

(CNN) -- The recent drought has ruined millions of acres of farmland in Texas, turning lakes into mud puddles, but in the East Texas city of Nacogdoches, authorities say, the drought may have done something good:
Unearthed a piece of the space shuttle Columbia.
The object, which is about 4 feet in diameter, was found in a local lake. NASA says it is a tank that provides power and water for shuttle missions.
"It's one of ours," said Lisa Malone, a spokeswoman for the agency.
Malone added that NASA is trying to develop a plan to recover the item, but it could take weeks to get it.
"We're looking into whether we'll send a team out or local authorities can," Malone said.
Authorities say the object was found after the drought caused the waters to recede in Lake Nacogdoches, and they notified representatives from NASA on Friday.
"The lower water level has exposed a larger than normal area on the northern side of the lake," said Sgt. Greg Sowell of the Nacogdoches Police Department.
The item is full of mud and is in a remote area near a private shoreline, Sowell said.
Nacogdoches made headlines in 2003 when debris from the shuttle Columbia disaster was found there.
The spacecraft broke up while re-entering Earth's atmosphere near the end of its mission on February 1, 2003.
"We want to remind everyone that the rules are the same as they were back in 2003. If this object is indeed a part of the shuttle, it is government property, and it is a criminal offense to tamper with it," Sowell said.
CNN's Dave Alsup contributed to this report.


August 11th, 2011, 11:06 AM
Historic last meeting for Discovery and Endeavour:



September 14th, 2011, 03:02 PM
Here is the future rocket for NASA:


September 14th, 2011, 04:49 PM
um... Why?

September 15th, 2011, 10:35 AM
I have to admit, this took me off guard too. I was unaware that the space program was still ongoing and the next generation shuttle was in the works by NASA as opposed to farming it out to the private sector with the best X-Prize projects, etc..

September 15th, 2011, 06:55 PM
Not just science fiction: Planet orbits 2 sunshttp://por-img.cimcontent.net/api/assets/bin-201109/9583-Two-Suns.jpg This image provided by NASA shows an artist's depiction showing a discovery by NASA's Kepl...

Thu Sep 15, 6:38 PM EDT

Astronomers say a bit of science fiction is now reality. They've spotted a planet orbiting two suns.

The discovery was made by NASA's planet-hunting telescope Kepler. Scientists describe the find in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
They are calling the new planet Tatooine (tah-too-WEEN') after the fictional body in the "Star Wars" films that boasts a double sunset.
The alien world, about the size of Saturn, is frigid and inhospitable. It orbits two stars 200 light-years from Earth.

Though there have been past hints of the existence of other planets that circled double stars, scientists said this is the first confirmation.
Kepler was launched in 2009 to find out how common other planets — especially Earth-like planets — are in the universe.
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/main/index.html (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/main/index.html)

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

September 15th, 2011, 08:08 PM
I have to admit, this took me off guard too. I was unaware that the space program was still ongoing and the next generation shuttle was in the works by NASA as opposed to farming it out to the private sector with the best X-Prize projects, etc..

Human spaceflight will be taken over by commercial operators for Low Earth orbit to ISS, where NASA will pay those operators to take astronauts to the Space Station. The capsule Orion and this new rocket called the SLS will take humans out of Low earth orbit for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972. The first flight of SLS with an Orion will fly unmanned by 2017. The rocket will be shuttle derived, using the External tank infrastructure for construction, Ares I sized boosters on the side, and Shuttle engines and plumbing. The idea is simple, use what you have to save money on development and save the skills of the labor force from shuttle rather than let them dissipate and lose it forever.

Eventually the boosters will be competed for the larger version, but even the smaller one could send the Orion capsule around the moon.

Article on SLS:


September 24th, 2011, 06:47 PM
NASA Satellite Debris Likely Fell in Ocean, May Never Be Found
No credible reports yet of UARS spacecraft pieces, agency says
An astronaut picture of the UARS satellite being deployed in 1991.

Photograph courtesy NASA

Traci Watson
for National Geographic News (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news)
Updated September 24, 2011, at 6:05 p.m. ET

After 20 years in orbit, NASA (http://www.nasa.gov/)'s UARS satellite (http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/space/solar-system/orbital/) has fallen to Earth, most likely
into a watery grave at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. But its exact resting
spot may remain a mystery forever, NASA said.

(Also see "Space Debris: Five Unexpected Objects That Fell to Earth." (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/09/110909-nasa-space-debris-uars-satellite-top-five-science/))

The U.S. military's Joint Space Operations Center estimated that the
Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, or UARS (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/uars/index.html), toppled from the sky at 12:16 a.m. ET Saturday.

(See "NASA Satellite Falling Faster Due to Solar Activity." (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/09/110921-nasa-satellite-uars-space-debris-crash-land-earth-nation/))

If that's correct, the 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms) of debris that were predicted to survive reentry
would have splashed down in the northern Pacific, far west of California (http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/united-states/california-guide/).

But "we may never know" exactly where the spacecraft met its fate, NASA's Nick Johnson said on Saturday.

NASA needs observations from the public to be certain of the location of remnants from the satellite,
which is the biggest NASA spacecraft to make an uncontrolled reentry in more than 30 years, Johnson said.

He hopes eyewitness accounts from ships or airliners will eventually confirm that any surviving pieces of
UARS dove harmlessly into the sea.

Amateur satellite trackers in places such as San Antonio, Texas (http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/united-states/texas-guide/), and northern Minnesota (http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/united-states/minnesota-guide/) reported catching
glimpses of UARS as it made its final circles around Earth.

But so far there have been no credible reports of debris either found on the ground or seen streaming through
the sky, Johnson said. Nor have there been reports of injuries or damage.

If the satellite actually slammed down just a few minutes later than estimated, it's possible some pieces
landed in western Canada (http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/canada-guide/). But so far rumors of debris there have proven to be only rumors.

Satellite Pieces Not For Sale

UARS, which weighed more than six tons, was lofted into orbit by the space shuttle (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/07/pictures/110720-best-unforgettable-space-shuttle-pictures/) Discovery in 1991.
The craft recorded data on Earth’s atmosphere until it was switched off in 2005.

The biggest intact piece to survive the superheated descent through the atmosphere was most likely
a 300-pound (140-kilogram) chunk of the spacecraft's structure, NASA said.

NASA continues to warn the curious not to touch any pieces of the spacecraft that may have made it
to the ground, because of the risk of sharp edges.

The space agency also tried to head off sales of UARS remnants on Internet auction sites such as eBay.

"Any pieces of UARS found are still the property of the country that made it," NASA warned via Twitter this morning.
"You'll have to give 'em back to U.S."

Also see "Space Station to Fall to Earth—Find Out How and Where" >>


September 24th, 2011, 06:56 PM
I think I saw it in a trailer park.

September 26th, 2011, 10:24 AM
Were there any aliens in it?

September 26th, 2011, 11:02 AM
ET's only visit trailer parks and farms.

September 26th, 2011, 11:21 AM
A have a neighbor who gets regular visits.

September 26th, 2011, 01:26 PM
Phoning Home or Metamucil?

September 26th, 2011, 01:50 PM
More involved than that: Supposedly documented on video.

September 26th, 2011, 02:49 PM
I hope he used that official "date stamp" or we will never know if he is telling the truth.




September 29th, 2011, 11:08 AM
China has launched its first space station, Tiangong-1:


September 29th, 2011, 11:14 AM
Why does this scare me?

September 29th, 2011, 12:35 PM
There goes the neighborhood?

September 30th, 2011, 08:59 PM
The Chinese have released a video animation showing the launch of their unmanned space station lab, complete with soaring orchestrations.

What musical accompaniment did they use?

Only one of the most rousing compositions on the planet: America the Beautiful !!!

China space station unmanned lab animation - video (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/video/2011/sep/29/china-space-station-animation-video)

April 1st, 2012, 11:32 AM
April Fools' Day Asteroid Zips Close by Earth

by Tariq Malik, SPACE.com Managing Editor
Date: 31 March 2012

An asteroid the size of a passenger jet zoomed near the Earth Sunday (April 1), just in time for April Fools' Day, but the space rock flyby posed no threat of hitting our planet, NASA officials said.

The asteroid 2012 EG5 was closer than the moon when it flew by Earth at 5:32 a.m. EDT (0932 GMT). The space rock is about 150 feet wide (46 meters), according to a NASA records. Scientists with the space agency announced the April Fools' asteroid flyby on Friday, March 30.

"Asteroid 2012 EG5 will safely pass Earth on April 1," scientists with NASA's Asteroid Watch program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., wrote in a Twitter statement.

The space rock may have visited Earth on April Fools' Day, but its flyby was no prank. The asteroid crept within 143,000 miles (230,000 kilometers) of Earth during its closest approach, which is just over half the distance between Earth and the moon's orbit. The moon typically circles the Earth at a distance of 238,000 miles (382,900 km).

Asteroid 2012 EG5 was the third relatively small asteroid to buzz the Earth in seven days. Two smaller asteroids passed near Earth on Monday (March 26).

Early Monday, the bus-size asteroid 2012 FP35 came within 96,000 miles (154,000 km) of Earth. It was followed a few hours later by asteroid 2012 FS35, which is the size of a car and passed Earth at a range of 36,000 miles (58,000 km).

Like asteroid 2012 EG5, those two smaller space rocks on Monday posed no risk of hitting Earth. Those space rocks were so small they would not survive the trip through Earth's atmosphere, even if they were aimed at our planet, Asteroid Watch researchers said.

Asteroid 2012 EG5 was discovered on March 13 by astronomers searching for near-Earth space rocks. Another space rock, the asteroid 2012 FA57, was discovered on March 28 and will fly by Earth on April 4 when it passes at a range just beyond the orbit of the moon.

Scientists with NASA's Near-Earth Object Program at JPL and other teams of astronomers regularly monitor the sky for larger, potentially dangerous asteroids to determine if they pose an impact threat to Earth.

This graphic depicts the orbit of asteroid 2012 EG5 (in blue)
during its April Fool's Day flyby of Earth on April 1, 2012.

April 22nd, 2012, 09:52 PM
April 22nd - Today is Earth Day.

If you could see the earth illuminated when you were in a place as dark as night, it would look to you more splendid than the moon.

-Galileo Galilei, 1632


Large image (http://images2.fanpop.com/images/photos/8000000/Earth-Space-space-8071577-2000-1500.jpg)

April 23rd, 2012, 12:13 AM
I'm currently reading "Cosmos" by Carl Sagan. Almost as good as the series itself. Almost.

April 23rd, 2012, 03:15 AM

April 24th, 2012, 12:54 AM
Hehe awesome. I've had this on my iPod for about 4 years now.