Here is this week’s report from NASA on activities aboard the Int. Space Station:
More great images photos of the Saturn system from Cassini:
This is an approximate true color view of Saturn and its moon Titan. Titan is seen here hovering near Saturn’s rings.
This composite is made of images that were taken by Cassini’s camera system, the Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) on May 22, 2015 and received on Earth May 24, 2015. The camera was pointing toward Titan and Saturn, and the images were taken using the green, violet, and infrared filters.
Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI / Val Klavans
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will make its final close approach to Saturn’s large, irregularly shaped moon Hyperion on Sunday, May 31.
The Saturn-orbiting spacecraft will pass Hyperion at a distance of about 21,000 miles (34,000 kilometers) at approximately 6:36 a.m. PDT (9:36 a.m. EDT). Mission controllers expect images from the encounter to arrive on Earth within 24 to 48 hours.
Mission scientists have hopes of seeing different terrain on Hyperion than the mission has previously explored in detail during the encounter, but this is not guaranteed. Hyperion (168 miles, 270 kilometers across) rotates chaotically, essentially tumbling unpredictably through space as it orbits Saturn. Because of this, it’s challenging to target a specific region of the moon’s surface, and most of Cassini’s previous close approaches have encountered more or less the same familiar side of the craggy moon.
Cassini scientists attribute Hyperion’s unusual, sponge-like appearance to the fact that it has an unusually low density for such a large object — about half that of water. Its low density makes Hyperion quite porous, with weak surface gravity. These characteristics mean impactors tend to compress the surface, rather than excavating it, and most material that is blown off the surface never returns.
Here’s a view of Hyperion when Cassini made a close pass in 2005.
Gazing off toward the horizon is thought-provoking no matter what body’s horizon it is. Rhea’s horizon is slightly irregular and battered by craters, so thoughts inevitably turn towards the forces that shape these icy worlds.
The surface of Rhea (949 miles or 1527 kilometers across) has been sculpted largely by impact cratering, each crater a reminder of a collision sometime in the moon’s history. On more geologically active worlds like Earth, the craters would be erased by erosion, volcanoes or tectonics. But on quieter worlds like Rhea, the craters remain until they are disrupted or covered up by the ejecta of a subsequent impact.
Lit terrain seen here is on the trailing hemisphere of Rhea. North on Rhea is up and rotated 12 degrees to the right. In this view, Cassini was at a subspacecraft latitude of 9 degrees North. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Feb. 10, 2015.
Lots more images have been released by the ESA Rosetta team: NAVCAM image bonanza: close orbits and comet landing – Rosetta/ESA’s comet chaser
The 1776 images cover the period between 23 September and 21 November 2014, corresponding to Rosetta’s close study of the comet down to distances of just 10 km from the comet centre – 8 km from the surface – and the images taken during and immediately following the landing of Philae on the comet.
The Hatmehit region on the small lobe of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as seen by Rosetta’s navigation camera around the time of Philae’s first touchdown, flight over the comet and final touchdown at 15:35, 16:35 and 17:35 GMT (onboard spacecraft time) on 12 November 2014. The distance between the spacecraft and comet centre over this period was between 17.4 and 17.8 km; apparent changes in the image scale are due to projection effects as the comet rotated underneath the spacecraft. The first landing site can be found in the first image, in the bottom left corner of the frame. The images have been contrast enhanced.
The images are part of today’s NavCam data release: NAVCAM image bonanza: close orbits and comet landing
This animation shows the trajectory of the probe during this period:
The MIT robotic Cheetah gets more and more agile: Watch MIT’s Robot Cheetah Leap Over Walls With Ease – Popular Mechanics –
A new international group called MarsPolar seeks to overtake Mars One and put a base on Mars by 2029: New Project Aims to Establish a Human Colony on Mars – Science 2.0.
The name comes from the goal of establishing a colony in a polar area of the Red Planet where there is sub-surface water ice available.
The funding plan involves “donations, investments and future business income opportunities”.
To answer some of the critics, the group has initiated a series of articles they call Inside 360: Introducing Inside 360: looking behind the scenes of Mars One’s mission processes – Mars One
Mars One is proud to introduce Inside 360; a series of in-depth articles that present an inside look into the details and feasibility of the Mars One mission. The first article can be found on Mars Exchange. Subsequent articles will be added periodically.
Mars One has taken the first crucial steps in the process of establishing the first human settlement on Mars. In order to address the questions and concerns that have been raised, Inside 360 will foremost provide an in-depth explanation of the individual phases of the mission. Mars One is continuously improving their mission plans based on advice from advisers and suppliers, and Inside 360 will offer the rationale behind decisions made. The ongoing series will additionally feature interviews with Mars One team members and external experts about the different aspects of the mission.
In the first entry in the series, Norbert Kraft, an expert on the effects of long-duration spaceflight, describes the process used to select candidates for Mars expeditions: The Science of Screening Astronauts – Blog/Mars One Community Platform,
Some recent announcements about the meeting:
Here’s the full Speaker List.
The Planetary Society‘s first LightSail, a prototype solar sail, went to orbit last week (see post here). For several days communications with the spacecraft went well. The plan was to wait until mid-June to unfurl the sail. However, late in the week a software flaw caused the system to shut down and now the control team waits for it to reboot and call home again: Software Glitch Pauses LightSail Test Mission – The Planetary Society.
This sort of problem often happens with these small satellite projects. Usually the satellites do wake up but there’s is no guarantee. So the LightSail team could be in for an anxious few days.
If the LightSail does re-connect, it appears it will be commanded to unfurl the sail very soon rather than risk another shutdown.
Find the latest updates at the Mission Control Center – The Planetary Society.
Here are four telescope tutorials from TMRO.tv Space Pod correspondent Jared Head
TMRO is a crowd funded show. If you like this episode consider contributing to help us to continue to improve. Head over tohttp://www.patreon.com/tmro for information, goals and reward levels.
* Refractor vs. Reflector: Telescopes – Space Pod 04/24/15
Are you a space geek looking to also become an astronomy geek? Space Pod correspondent Jared Head walks you through two of the most common types of telescopes and what each means. What is right for you? Keep watching Fridays for Jared’s segments to find out!
* Through the Looking Glass: Refractors – Space Pod 05/08/15
TMRO Astronomer Jared Head kicks off a 4-part SpacePod series about finding the right telescope, and takes a closer look at refracting telescopes.
* Mirror Mirror: Reflectors – Space Pod 05/15/15
Astronomer of TMRO Jared Head continues with the second part of a four-part series on telescopes. He goes into details about the lightbucket telescope design of reflectors.
* Telescope Cats!…Catadioptrics – Space Pod 05/22/15
TMRO Astronomer Jared Head continues with the third installment in a four-part series on telescopes, looking into the weird and wonderful world of catadioptric telescopes.
Some items regarding projects involved in alternative approaches to fusion power:
* Here’s some news about three fusion projects – General Fusion in Canada, Helion Energy in Seattle, Washington, and LPP Fusion in Middlesex, New Jersey – Three Small Fusion Companies Approaching a Critical Funding Mass – The Commercial Space Blog
* A longer update on LPP: LPP Focus Fusion Report May 21, 2015 (pdf)
Below is a cool video showing the approach and docking of a Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station on March 27th from the point of view of the astronauts in the spacecraft.
The video shows the last 15 minutes of the docking procedure. Though it’s significantly sped up, the clip lets you appreciate the remarkable 17,000 mph, in-orbit dance that brings the capsule and space station together. The shot was taken from aboard the Soyuz capsule.
1. Monday, May 25, 2015: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT; 4-5:30 PM CDT): No show today due to the Memorial Day Holiday.
2. Tuesday, May 26, 2015:,7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome DR. MATTHEW MOYNIHAN regarding Polywell and fusion energy.
3. Friday, May 29, 2015; 9:30 -11 AM PDT (12:30-2 PM EDT; 11:30-1 PM CDT):We welcome DR. IAN CRAWFORD from the UK, Dr. Haym Benaroya, and Dr. John Jurist to discuss Dr. Crawford’s recent paper on lunar resources, “Lunar Resources: A Review” I will upload a copy of this paper to The Space Show blog on Thursday in advance of this program. .
4. Sunday, May 31, 2015: 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): OPEN LINES. All space, STEM topics welcome as are first time callers.
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
Via Emily Lakdawalla comes this wonderful view (partly-real, party-simulated) of a sunset on Mars in true time. And it has a very appropriate soundtrack: Real-time sunset on Mars – The Planetary Society –
On its 956th sol (day) on Mars, the rover Curiosity used its Mastcam to image a stunning sequence of the Sun (Sol) setting over the local horizon at Gale Crater, where it has been exploring since August 2012. The individual images taken by Curiosity covered a period of about 6 minutes. The sequence of images was too intermittent to make smooth movie of the sunset on its own. Using the foreground and horizon from one image and then recreating the sky and Sun in Photoshop, Glen Nagle used Adobe Premier to create a near real-time sunset sequence as if you could stand on Mars and see it for yourself. With the addition of a little ‘lens flare’ and the haunting music ‘Lux Aeterna’ by György Ligeti, this imagining of a sunset on Mars evokes a sense of awe and reverence.
NASA / JPL / MSSS / Glen Nagle
More TMRO.tv Space Pod short reports.
TMRO Space Pods are crowd funded shows. If you like this episode consider contributing to help us to continue to improve. Head over tohttp://www.patreon.com/spacepod for information, goals and reward levels. Don’t forget to check out our weekly live show campaign as well over at http://www.patreon.com/tmro
* NASA is Maximizing Kennedy Space Center, and an update on the Progress Failure – Space Pod 05/14/15
Space Mike gives an update on the failed Progress 27-M resupply ship as well as an innovative plan by NASA to maximize launches from Kennedy Space Center.
* Hitchhiking On A Comet – Space Pod 05/18/15
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy may want to add a chapter on how to catch a ride on a comet. Ariel Waldman talks about the Comet Hitchhiker, one of the projects to emerge from NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC), a program dedicated to turning science fiction into science fact.
* Secrets of the X-37B Revealed – SpacePod 05/19/15
Space Mike talks about the upcoming fourth flight of the X-37B unmanned spaceplane, and some of the details that have emerged about the mission and its payloads.
*Animal Astronauts: A brief history of animal spaceflight – Space Pod 05/20/15
Lisa Stojanovski talks about how animal astronauts helped us advance human spaceflight. Animal astronauts also helped us learn how fish swim in space, how jellyfish sense gravity and that cockroaches can give birth in space!
* Spaceplanes Part 3: The X-15 – Space Pod 05/21/15
The making of Andrew Weir’s best-seller, The Martian into a movie by the director Ridley Scott is well underway. Here are some snapshots from the movie set. Matt Damon stars as NASA astronaut Mark Watney who struggles to survive on the Red Planet after his expedition believes he has been killed by a sudden dust storm and leaves him behind when they evacuate.
The Dawn probe is getting closer to the giant asteroid (or dwarf planet depending on your classification preference) and taking better images of those odd bright spots on the surface:
[ Update: Lots more Ceres images with Emily Lakdawalla‘s commentary: Tons of fun with the latest Ceres image releases from Dawn – The Planetary Society.]
NASA’s Dawn mission captured a sequence of images, taken for navigation purposes, of dwarf planet Ceres on May 16, 2015. The image showcases the group of the brightest spots on Ceres, which continue to mystify scientists. It was taken from a distance of 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers) and has a resolution of 2,250 feet (700 meters) per pixel.
“Dawn scientists can now conclude that the intense brightness of these spots is due to the reflection of sunlight by highly reflective material on the surface, possibly ice,” Christopher Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission from the University of California, Los Angeles, said recently.
Dawn arrived at Ceres on March 6, marking the first time a spacecraft has orbited a dwarf planet. Previously, the spacecraft explored giant asteroid Vesta for 14 months from 2011 to 2012. Dawn has the distinction of being the only spacecraft to orbit two extraterrestrial targets.
The spacecraft has been using its ion propulsion system to maneuver to its second mapping orbit at Ceres, which it will reach on June 6. The spacecraft will remain at a distance of 2,700 miles (4,400 kilometers) from the dwarf planet until June 30. Afterward, it will make its way to lower orbits.
Dawn’s mission is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK, Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. For a complete list of acknowledgements, visit: dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission
For more information about the Dawn mission, visit: dawn.jpl.nasa.gov
NASA JPL has set up a site where you can vote on what you think is creating the shiny spots: What’s the spot on World Ceres.
SpaceX recently carried out a pad abort test with a Dragon Crew module at Cape Canaveral. Here is a video from a camera on board the Dragon:
Here is a view from a distance from the pad:
Here’s the latest episode of NASA’s weekly Space To Ground report on activities related to the International Space Station:
Here’s a video of the departure of the SpaceX Dragon on Thursday from the ISS:
The National Space Society ‘s annual conference started today in Toronto, Canada – ISDC 2015 (International Space Development Conference 2015). The event lasts through Sunday and includes multiple presentation tracks: Schedule.
Check out comments from the meeting: #ISDC2015 hashtag on Twitter