Following jus two days after the arrival of NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft at Mars (see previous post), India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) probe will go into orbit around the Red Planet on Wednesday September 24th.
This is the first deep space mission by India. The probe was launched into earth orbit on Nov. 5, 2013 via a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket from the Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradeshand.
On Dec. 1, 2013 MOM fired its engine to send it on a trajectory to intersect with Mars this week.
On Monday Sept. 22, there will be a brief 4 second firing test of the engine to insure it is still working correctly after its long dormancy. Then on Wednesday MOM will fire the engine for 24 minutes to go into orbit around Mars.
A top goal of the Mars Orbiter Mission is to strengthen the technical capabilities of the Indian space program. The scientific goals of the mission are to study the Martian atmosphere and the morphology and mineralogy of the planet’s surface.
Articles about the mission:
- India’s Mangalyaan all set to enter Mars orbit – India Today
- US, Indian probes prepare to go into Mars orbit – The Hindu
- Indian Probe Scheduled To Begin Orbiting Mars Sept. 24 – SpaceNews.com
Indian space agency info about the mission:
- Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)
- Mars Orbiter Insertion – ISRO (pdf) – slide presentation
- Updates on the Mars Orbiter Mission – ISRO
A documentary about the mission:
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is set to go into orbit around the Red Planet this evening at 9:50 pm EDT. NASA TV coverage of the event starts at 9:30 pm EDT and lasts till 10:45 pm EDT.
Below is a NASA item about the arrival of MAVEN at Mars:
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is nearing its scheduled Sept. 21 insertion into Martian orbit after completing a 10-month interplanetary journey of 442 million miles (711 million kilometers).
Flight Controllers at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado, will be responsible for the health and safety of the spacecraft throughout the process. The spacecraft’s mission timeline will place the spacecraft in orbit at approximately 6:50 p.m. PDT (9:50 p.m. EDT).
“So far, so good with the performance of the spacecraft and payloads on the cruise to Mars,” said David Mitchell, MAVEN project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The team, the flight system, and all ground assets are ready for Mars orbit insertion.”
The orbit-insertion maneuver will begin with the brief firing of six small thruster engines to steady the spacecraft. The engines will ignite and burn for 33 minutes to slow the craft, allowing it to be pulled into an elliptical orbit with a period of 35 hours.
Following orbit insertion, MAVEN will begin a six-week commissioning phase that includes maneuvering the spacecraft into its final orbit and testing its instruments and science-mapping commands. Thereafter, MAVEN will begin its one-Earth-year primary mission to take measurements of the composition, structure and escape of gases in Mars’ upper atmosphere and its interaction with the sun and solar wind.
“The MAVEN science mission focuses on answering questions about where did the water that was present on early Mars go, about where did the carbon dioxide go,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from the University of Colorado, Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. “These are important questions for understanding the history of Mars, its climate, and its potential to support at least microbial life.”
MAVEN launched Nov. 18, 2013, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying three instrument packages. It is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the upper atmosphere of Mars. The mission’s combination of detailed measurements at specific points in Mars’ atmosphere and global imaging provides a powerful tool for understanding the properties of the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere.
“MAVEN is another NASA robotic scientific explorer that is paving the way for our journey to Mars,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Together, robotics and humans will pioneer the Red Planet and the solar system to help answer some of humanity’s fundamental questions about life beyond Earth.”
The spacecraft’s principal investigator is based at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at University of Colorado, Boulder. The university provided two science instruments and leads science operations, as well as education and public outreach, for the mission.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the project and also provided two science instruments for the mission. Lockheed Martin built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations. The Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley provided four science instruments for MAVEN. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, provides navigation and Deep Space Network support, and Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations. JPL manages the Mars Exploration Program for NASA.
NASA opens the citizens science program NASA Solve :
“NASA is committed to engaging the public, and specifically the maker community through innovative activities like the Mars Balance Mass Challenge,” said NASA Chief Technologist David Miller. “And NASA Solve is a great way for members of the public, makers and other citizen scientists to see all NASA challenges and prizes in one location.”
The Mars Balance Mass Challenge seeks design ideas for small science and technology payloads that could potentially provide dual purpose as ejectable balance masses on spacecraft entering the Martian atmosphere.
The payloads will serve two roles: perform scientific or technology functions that help us learn more about the Red Planet, and provide the necessary weight to balance planetary landers.
Submissions are due by Nov. 21. A winner will be announced in mid-January 2015 and receive an award of $20,000.
“We want people to get involved in our journey to Mars,” said Lisa May, lead program executive for NASA’s Mars exploration program. “This challenge is a creative way to bring innovative ideas into our planning process, and perhaps help NASA find another way to pack more science and technology into a mission.”
NASA Solve, which will host content for all agency challenges and prizes, features information on this new challenge at: http://www.nasa.gov/solve/marsbalancechallenge
In addition to the challenge and website announcements, NASA is hosting an exhibit at the World Maker Faire through 6 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, where citizen scientists and makers can learn about other ways to engage with the space agency, including Centennial Challenges, the CubeSat program, a 3-D printer challenge, and the Asteroid Grand Challenge.
The exhibit also features information on a NASA mission that will mark a major milestone Sunday. NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is scheduled to enter Mars’ orbit at approximately 9:50 p.m., after a 10-month interplanetary journey of more than 440 million miles. NASA Television coverage of the orbit insertion and post-event news conference begins at 9:30 p.m. The broadcast also will be available on the agency’s website.
Launched on Nov. 18, 2013, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the upper atmosphere of Mars. It is another NASA robotic scientific explorer paving the way for the journey to Mars.
The Mars Balance Mass challenge is managed by NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI). CoECI was established in coordination with White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to advance NASA open innovation efforts and extend that expertise to other federal agencies. The challenges are being released on the NASA Innovation Pavilion, one of the CoECI platforms available to NASA team members, through its contract with InnoCentive, Inc.
To learn more about MAVEN and view the live broadcast of orbit insertion activities, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/maven
For NASA Television downlink information, scheduling information and streaming video, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv
- Fermi Paradox Solved? – Crowlspace
- [1409.2506] On the role of GRBs on life extinction in the Universe
Sounds like a motivation to accelerate mind uploading.
Check out the Galactic Journey back to the future blog:
Imagine living through the post-Golden Age of science fiction and fantasy. What would it be like to experience this journey at the plodding, one day per day pace?
Galactic Journey is a blog written from the point of view of someone living in the past writing about then-contemporary science fiction and fantasy, particularly fiction found in magazines.
What is this madness? Has the writer lost his mind? Or is he lost in time? Perhaps the former, by accident, and perhaps the latter, deliberately. In truth, he lives in the same time as you. In 2009, he embarked on a chronological tour of his voluminous science fiction digest collection at a pace mirroring the march of time, but delayed 55 years. Thus, in February 2009, he began reading the April editions of the magazines he had in his collection.
After four and a half years at this entertaining project, it dawned upon him that he might enjoy sharing the experience with others. If you like it, do let him know!
Here’s a SETI Institute video of a panel discussion on the topic of accurately depicting exoplanets: Artists Imaging Exoworlds-Getting It Right (SETI Con 2)
From the caption:
- Lynette Cook – most widely known as an out-of-this-world space artist, Cook has enthralled others with the wonders of the cosmos via her depictions of planets discovered outside our solar system. Published worldwide in books, periodicals, and documentaries, these renderings have been featured on ABC7 News and in USA Today.
- Danielle Futselaar – owner of ArtSource Graphic Design Studio in the Netherlands. Artist/Illustrator and Graphic Designer. Her clients include UNICEF, TNT and AS Watson. Danielle is also the SETI Institute’s TeamSETI Volunteer Captain of Creative Design where she has illustrated and created complete graphic design packages for fundraising campaigns and SETIcon II. She also created the official artist impression of Asteroid Minerva and its Two Moons discovered by SETI Institute’s Franck Marchis.
- Eric Hanson- A visual effects designer specializing in the creation of digital environments and effects for feature films, Eric Hanson has worked with noted visual effects houses such as Digital Domain, Sony Imageworks, Dream Quest Images, and Walt Disney Feature Animation. His credits include The Fifth Element (1997), Bicentennial Man (1999), Cast Away (2000), Hollow Man (2000), Mission to Mars (2000), Spider-Man (2002) and Atlantis as well as many special-venue films.
- Mark Showalter – Showalter is rabid about rings. While everyone knows about Saturn’s spectacular ring system, it’s often forgotten that Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune are also encircled by fainter and narrower rings. Each of these systems interacts closely with a family of small, inner moons. Showalter works on some of NASA’s highest-profile missions to the outer planets, including Cassini, now orbiting Saturn, and New Horizons, which flew past Jupiter en route to its 2015 encounter with Pluto. He has even searched for the rings of Mars, although so far with no success. Known for his persistence in planetary image analysis, Mark’s work on the earlier Voyager mission led to his discovery of Jupiter’s faint, outer “gossamer” rings and Saturn’s tiny ring-moon, Pan.
- Franck Marchis – Dr. Franck Marchis is a Planetary Astronomer at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute and also an associate astronomer at the Observatoire de Paris. Our solar system is characterized by considerable diversity of its constituent bodies. Franck Marchis’ first involvement in the study of this diversity started in 1996 while working at the UNAM Astronomy Department in Mexico City. He made the first ground-based observations of the volcanoes on the jovian moon Io, using the first Adaptive Optics (AO) systems available on the European Southern Observatory (ESO) 3.6 m telescope in Chile. After a brief stay in London and four years in Chile at ESO, he completed in 2000 his PhD in France. Since then, he has been studying asteroids with large telescopes and he discovered in 2005 the first triple using the Very Large Telescope in Chile. His work consists in using and developing adaptive optics on current and future 30m telescopes dedicated to the study of the solar system and extra solar planets.
An amazingly beautiful aurora image by James Woodend wins the Royal Museum Greenwich‘s contest for the 2014 Astronomy Photographer of the Year. See the top images at Earth & Space : 2014 winners : Exhibitions : What’s on : RMG
Aurora over a Glacier Lagoon by James Woodend, UK
9 January 2014
Canon 5D Mk III camera; 33mm f/3.2 lens; ISO 1000; 10-second exposure
What the photographer says…
Although this is not a strong aurora, they sometimes make the best reflection shots. The water was very still – you can see the icebergs floating in the lagoon and their reflections. In the background is the Vatnajökull Glacier.
What it shows…
The pale-green glow of the aurora comes from oxygen atoms high in the atmosphere, energized by subatomic particles blasted out by the Sun. The particles are funnelled down towards the north and south poles by the Earth’s magnetic field, which is why these spectacular light shows are so often juxtaposed with the frozen scenery of the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Here the photographer has skilfully captured the delicate, icy colouration of land, water and sky.
Here’s a series of videos about the contest leading up to the winners:
For the recent Burning Man event, the “Desert Wizards of Mars” brought their Black Rock Observatory. Funded via a Kickstarter, the project include two domed-covered 21 inch telescopes and the Mars Rover Art Car.
Here’s an article about the project : Bringing Space Science Education to Burning Man–and Beyond – Co.Create.
And their Kickstarter video:
With the revived Kepler space observatory once again looking for planets orbiting other stars, the citizens science program Planet Hunters is graduating to Planet Hunters 2.0: A Brand New Planet Hunters – Planet Hunters
On December 16, 2010, the Zooniverse launched Planet Hunters to enlist the public’s help to search for extrasolar planets (exoplanets) in the data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. Back then we didn’t know what we would find. It may have been the case that no new planets were discovered and that computers had the job down to a fine art. The project was a gamble on the ability of human pattern recognition to beat machines just occasionally and spot the telltale dip in a star’s brightness due to a transiting planet that was missed by automated routines looking for repeating patterns.
Nearly four years later, Planet Hunters has become a success beyond anyone’s expectation. To date 8 published scientific papers have resulted from the efforts of nearly 300,000 volunteers worldwide. Planet Hunters has discovered 9 planet candidate co-discoveries with the Kepler effort, over 30 unknown planet candidates not previously identified by the Kepler team, a confirmed transiting circumbinary planet in a quadruple star system (PH1b), a confirmed Jupiter-sized planet in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star (PH2b), and identified the 7th planet candidate of a 7 planet star system.
Today in collaboration with JPL’s PlanetQuest, the Planet Hunters science team and the Zooniverse are proud to announce the launch of Planet Hunters version 2.0. We’ve taken your feedback and the lessons learned over the past 3.5 years to build a fast new interface that we think will take the project to the next stage. Using the Zooniverse’s latest technology, Planet Hunters 2.0 is built specifically with the next generation of transiting exoplanet surveys in mind, including the new K2 mission, which repurposes the Kepler spacecraft.
Kepler had been monitoring ~170,000 stars for the signatures of transiting exoplanets over the past 4 years in the Kepler field located in the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra. The new-two wheel Kepler mission dubbed ‘K2‘ will have Kepler observing brand new sets of 10,000-20,000 stars every 75 days. These stars are different from the sources that Kepler had been monitoring in the past. Your eyes will be one of the first to gaze upon these observations. Most of the K2 target stars will have never before been searched for planets, providing a new opportunity to find distant worlds. K2 observations will be made available by NASA and the Kepler team to the entire astronomical community and the public shortly after being transmitted to Earth and processed. We aim to get them on Planet Hunters 2.0 as fast as we can.
- Welcome to the Era of K2 – Planet Hunters – May.16.2014
- A Sunny Outlook for NASA Kepler’s Second Light – NASA – explanation of the new K2 operating mode
This week’s Space to Ground video report on activities aboard the Int. Space Station focuses on preparations for the upcoming arrival of a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft with two and a half tons of cargo. The Dragon is currently set to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday morning at 2:16 am EDT.
Looks like the pass of the comet Siding Spring by Mars on October 19th will not in fact bring along a dust cloud of fast moving particles thick enough to damage the spacecraft orbiting the planet:
By the middle of this summer, published estimates (based on new images and additional modelling) were indicating a flux of around 10-6 particles per m2, which, for Mars Express, very roughly equates to a 1-in-300,000 chance of being hit. It’s starting to look like our comet C/2013 A1/Siding Spring will manifest itself as a more friendly passer-by than initially thought and that it won’t be hurling clouds of large particles at unthinkable speeds towards Mars and its man-made satellites.
- One plan becomes two plans – Mars Express
- Comet Siding Spring Mars encounter: One Mars Express plan becomes two – The Planetary Society
- Comets: Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) – Mars Exploration Program
An image of the comet Siding Spring
A diagram illustrating the relative closeness of the pass of comet Siding Spring to Mars vs going by the Earth:
Rick Boozer posts the second installment of his tutorial on photometry with the AIP4WIN software package:
- Astro Maven: Photometry with AIP4WIN: A Tutorial – Part 2
- Astro Maven: Photometry with AIP4WIN: A Tutorial – Part 1
From Part 1:
The science of photometry can be used by both amateur astronomers and professionals for some very advanced scientific work. You can detect the light changes caused by eclipsing binary stars, plot the changes in luminosity of a variable star and even detect an exoplanet orbiting another star. This tutorial will be your step-by-step guide on how to employ the powerful Magnitude Measurement Tool that comes with the renowned astronomical imaging software known as AIP4WIN by Richard Berry and Robert Burnell. Special thanks to Mr. Berry for giving me permission to include screen images and extensive operating details from AIP4WIN.
The announcement in 1996 that a multi-billion year old meteorite from Mars showed signs of ancient microbial life attracted tremendous public attention but the results were subsequently discounted, though never completed refuted, by the studies of other groups. For a summary of the Allan Hills 84001 meteorite controversy, see Life on Mars? – Smithsonian – May.2005.
An electron microscope image from the Allan Hills 84001 meteorite
Back in February of this year there came a study by a team of scientists from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California that reported signs of “biological processes” in a Mars meteorite that would have occurred hundreds of millions of years ago : Mars Meteorite Structures: Optimism for Alien Life? – Discovery News.
This week comes a study of a 1.3 billion year old meteorite with electron microscopes that sees cell-like structures that resemble fossilised biological cells seen in old earth rocks : Martian meteorite yields more evidence of the possibility of life on Mars – The University of Manchester.
Chemical maps of the ovoid structure obtained with an electron microprobe.
Chatzitheodoridis Elias, Haigh Sarah, and Lyon Ian.
Astrobiology. August 2014, 14(8): 651-693. doi:10.1089/ast.2013.1069.
More such results probably won’t change the dominant view that inorganic processes can’t be ruled out as the creators of these tiny structures. It will take studies on Mars, or more appropriately, below the surface of Mars, to prove whether or not there is life on the Red Planet now or that it existed sometime in the distant past.
A video from the European Space Agency (ESA):
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst gives an overview of some of the science he has performed during his Blue Dot mission on the International Space Station so far. From robotic surgery to vaccines and accurate thermometers, research in space is bringing benefits for humans on Earth.
Watch as Alexander takes you through some of the highlights of his mission.
Read more about his Blue Dot mission here http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Hum…
Follow Alexander here: http://alexandergerst.esa.int/
A report from the European Southern Observatory (ESO):
New observations explain why Milky Way-like galaxies are
so common in the Universe
For decades scientists have believed that galaxy mergers usually result in the formation of elliptical galaxies. Now, for the the first time, researchers using ALMA and a host of other radio telescopes have found direct evidence that merging galaxies can instead form disc galaxies, and that this outcome is in fact quite common. This surprising result could explain why there are so many spiral galaxies like the Milky Way in the Universe.
An international research group led by Junko Ueda, a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science postdoctoral fellow, has made surprising observations that most galaxy collisions in the nearby Universe — within 40–600 million light-years from Earth — result in so-called disc galaxies. Disc galaxies — including spiral galaxies like the Milky Way and lenticular galaxies — are defined by pancake-shaped regions of dust and gas, and are distinct from the category of elliptical galaxies.
It has, for some time, been widely accepted that merging disc galaxies would eventually form an elliptically shaped galaxy. During these violent interactions the galaxies do not only gain mass as they merge or cannibalise each-other, but they are also changing their shape throughout cosmic time, and therefore changing type along the way.
Computer simulations from the 1970s predicted that mergers between two comparable disc galaxies would result in an elliptical galaxy. The simulations predict that most galaxies today are elliptical, clashing with observations that over 70% of galaxies are in fact disc galaxies. However, more recent simulations have suggested that collisions could also form disc galaxies.
To identify the final shapes of galaxies after mergers observationally, the group studied the distribution of gas in 37 galaxies that are in their final stages of merging. The Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA) and several other radio telescopes  were used to observe emission from carbon monoxide (CO), an indicator of molecular gas.
The team’s research is the largest study of molecular gas in galaxies to date and provides unique insight into how the Milky Way might have formed. Their study revealed that almost all of the mergers show pancake-shaped areas of molecular gas, and hence are disc galaxies in the making. Ueda explains:
“For the first time there is observational evidence for merging galaxies that could result in disc galaxies. This is a large and unexpected step towards understanding the mystery of the birth of disc galaxies.”
Nonetheless, there is a lot more to discover. Ueda added:
“We have to start focusing on the formation of stars in these gas discs. Furthermore, we need to look farther out in the more distant Universe. We know that the majority of galaxies in the more distant Universe also have discs. We however do not yet know whether galaxy mergers are also responsible for these, or whether they are formed by cold gas gradually falling into the galaxy. Maybe we have found a general mechanism that applies throughout the history of the Universe.”
1. Monday, Sept. 15, 2014: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): We welcome back DR. ERIK SEEDHOUSE regarding his new book, Beyond Human: Engineering Our Future Evolution.
2. Tuesday, Sept. 16 , 2014:,7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome back DR. MIKE GRIFFIN, former NASA Administrator and current CEO of Schafer Corp.
3. Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, 9:30 -11 AM PDT (12;30-2 PM EDT; 11:30-1 PM CDT): We welcome STEWART MONEY to discuss is new best selling book, Here Be Dragons: The Rise of SpaceX and the Journey to Mars“.
4. Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014, 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT). We welcome back noted space and science writer MICHAEL BELFIORE. Check out his website at http://michaelbelfiore.com.
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.